Revelation 12: Why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross?

War in heavenThis is the sixth article on the War in Heaven, as described in Revelation 12.   The first article identifies the role-players in this war:
● The Male Child, who was caught up to God,
● His mother, who existed both before and after Christ,
● The Dragon, that stood ready to devour the Child. and
● Michael, who wages war in heaven with the Dragon.

The second article concludes that the actual chronological sequence of events in Revelation 12 is as follows:
● The war rages in heaven,
● The Male Child ascends to God,
● The victory in the war in heaven,
● Satan thrown down to earth and
● The woman flees to in wilderness.

The third article explains how Michael overcame Satan.  Satan deceives and accuses.  To explain how “the blood of the Lamb and … the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11) were able to overcome Satan’s accusations, this article discusses the origin of evil and Satan’s tactics.

The third article concluded that Christ’s death defeated Satan, but verse 11 of Revelation 12 claims that “they” overcame him because of “their testimony.”  The fourth article therefore asks who they are, and why their testimony was required to expel Satan from heaven.

The fifth article asks what the accuser of our brethren (Revelation 12:10) accused God of, and what evidence Christ provided that was able to refute Satan’s accusations.

God made peace with the “things in heaven” because of the blood of the Lamb, but Revelation 12 indicates that the war continued on earth. The current and final article asks why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross.

Rejoice, O heavens

Lamb of GodBecause of the blood of the Lamb and because of the testimony of our brethren, Satan was driven out of heaven and thrown down on earth (Revelation 12:8-13).  A loud voice then announced:

Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, … For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them” (Revelation 12:10-12).

Events on earth made an end to the war in heaven.  Through Christ, God made peace with the “things in heaven” (Col. 1:20).  This world became the test ground for God’s righteousness, with huge implications for the entire cosmos.

Woe to the earth

But the voice continued:

Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath” (Revelation 12:12).

The war continues on earth.  This planet is the only place in the universe where Satan still has power.

Why does evil continue?

Why did God not make an end to sin immediately after the Cross?  One seldom hears this topic discussed, probably because the standard theory of the atonement has no answer for the question.  In this theory, Jesus died to satisfy the wrath of an angry God.  Is God’s wrath then not yet fully satisfied?

Satan’s weapons in this war are deception and accusations.  God responds, not with violence or with force, but with the blood of the Lamb and the testimony of “our brethren.”  These means provided the evidence required to repudiate Satan’s charges.  This probably includes evidence about God’s love and grace, and evidence about Satan’s intentions and the consequences of his principles.  Since Satan attacks with accusations, and since God responds with evidence, the only possible conclusion is that sin continues because some evidence is still outstanding.

For what purpose is evidence required?

If we understand Revelation 12 correctly, the earth is the only place where the rebellion against God still rages, for Satan has been banished from the courts of heaven after Jesus’ ascension.  Therefore, to remove evil from this planet is to remove it entirely from God’s creation:

The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption” (Rom. 8:21).

Lake of FireEvil will be exterminated when “the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone” (Rev. 20:10), and with him, anyone whose “name was not found written in the book of life” (20:15).   After this event we will hear God say, “Behold, I am making all things new” (21:5).

The eradication of evil in 20:13-15 is preceded immediately by the judgment before the great white throne (20:11-12).  The extermination of evil is therefore the consequence of this judgment.  The evidence is therefore required for the final judgment, in which “books were opened; 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” (Rev. 20:12). 

In conclusion, the war still continues because there still is some evidence outstanding that is required for the final great judgment.  The eradication of evil, and with it all the people and angels that were corrupted by it, will be a most traumatic event for all the universe, including for the people that are saved.  God want to make sure that all of His intelligent creatures understand and agree with the decisions made in that judgment.

What evidence is still outstanding?

What and why evidence is required, we can see from the end-time events as described in the book of Revelation:

The Mark of the Beast

Jesus’ arrival on earth caused a major crisis.  In a few years much was revealed both about God and about Satan.

Revelation predicts a similar crisis in the end time, when “the image of the beast would … cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Rev. 13:15).  It will attempt to give all people “a mark on their right hand or on their forehead” (Rev. 13:16).  People who refuse to receive this mark will not be allowed “to buy or to sell” (v17).

What the mark of the beast is, requires more in-depth study of the prophecies, but we can safely say that it will be some sin which people will be forced to commit, the modern equivalent to Nebuchadnezzar forcing all people to worship the statue he made, at the threat of death (Dan. 3:5-6).  The beast itself is an earthly power (cf. 13:1-2; 17:9-10; 12).  To worship it is to accept its authority.

At the same time the truth will be preached with more power than ever before (Rev. 14:6).  The evil one attempts to blur the distinctions between what is holy and what is common, but these distinctions will be made clear by God’s end-time messengers.  All people will have to choose between the mark of the beast and “the seal of the living God” (7:2; cf. 14:1).  This will be the valley of decision for all people:

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near” (Joel 3:14).

God’s people will be “victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name” (15:2).  They “had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand” (20:4).

The plagues

There will come a turning point, during this final crisis, when “the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple” (15:8).  After this, the plagues are poured out (16:1), but only “on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image” (16:2).  This will give them clear evidence that they are persecuting God’s people, but “they did not repent” (16:9, 11).  They will continue to oppress God’s people.

The Millennium

Christ’s return will make an end of the persecution of God’s people, but only temporarily.  At the end of the 1000 years all people that opposed God, from all ages since the creation of the world, will “come to life” (20:5) and “Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations” (20:7-8).  “They … surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (20:9).  This describes, in a few words, the final and major battle between good and evil.  It is described only briefly because we have no way to understand the circumstances or nature of that battle.

The outstanding evidence

Why would God allow an end-time crisis in which His people are killed?  Why does God pour down horrible plagues on the earth when there is no possibility that sinners will repent?  And why would God bring the lost back to life, 1000 years after Christ’s return, only to consume them again by fire?

These are to provide the evidence required for the final great judgment.

God’s people will be “victorious over the beast.”  The evil one will take away from them all they have, but they will refuse to “worship the image of the beast” (13:15), “even when faced with death” (Revelation 12:11).  This will reveal their faith: “They overcame him (the accuser) … because of the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11).  The Cross demonstrated God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:25-26).  God’s end-time people will similarly demonstrate, to the universe for all ages to come, the justness of God’s grace for His people.

God’s persecutorsdid not repent,” even when they have clear evidence that they are persecuting God’s people.  This will reveal their true nature.  They pretend to work for God, but their actions will show that they are fundamentally opposed to God and to His principles, like the pharisees of old, who opposed Jesus.  This will confirm God’s condemnation of them.

All the seeds—both good and evil—that have been sown over the centuries, will come to maturity in this last battle.  Through this crisis good and evil will both be fully revealed (cf. 3:10).

God allows the human race—created in His own image—to show the nature and consequences of Satan’s principles.  The entire universe is watching events on this little planet with intense interest (e.g. Job):

The manifold wisdom of God (is) … made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places“ (Ephesians 3:10).

Various articles on the website are available with further information, for example Purpose of the Plagues and Return of Christ in the book of Revelation.

The delay

Why does God delay the end-time crisis?

First century Christians expected Jesus to return in their time.  See The Lord is coming soon.  When He did not, they asked questions, and Peter explained:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Over the centuries God’s persecuted people complained about the delay:

How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (6:10)

In Revelation 7:1-3 an angel ascends from the rising of the sun (the east), “having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads’.

God delays the final crisis because His people are not ready, and He is “not wishing for any to perish.”  He will only allow the end-time crisis when the 144000 are sealed.  The number 144000 is interpreted here not as a literal number, but a symbol of the quality of their faith:

These are the ones who have not been defiled with women … who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. … And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.” (14:4-5).

Summary

Satan was driven out of heaven because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the testimony of our brethren.  God made peace with the “things in heaven,” but the war continued on earth.

Why did God not make an end to sin immediately after the Cross?  Since Satan attacks with accusations, and since God responds with evidence, we assume that God allows sin to continue because some evidence is still outstanding.

For what purpose is evidence required?  Earth is the only place where the rebellion against God still rages.  To remove evil from this planet is to remove it entirely from the universe.  After the judgment before the great white throne, evil will be exterminated through the lake of fire.  The war continues on earth to generate evidence required in the final judgment.

The end-time events show what and why evidence is required. By threats of violence and death people will be forced to receive the Mark of the Beast, which is some sin which people will be forced to commit.  But God’s people will be “victorious over the beast.”

At some point, during this final crisis, the plagues will start to fall, but only on the people who are persecuting God’s people.  This will give them clear evidence that they are opposing God, but they will not turn to God.

Christ’s return will not be the final end of sin.  At the end of the 1000 years all people that opposed God, from all ages since the creation of the world, will “come to life” and continue their persecution of God’s people.

All of this is to provide the evidence required for the final great judgment.  These events will demonstrate the faith of God’s people, but will also show that the lost are fundamentally opposed to God and to His principles, thus confirming God’s judgments, for God wants us to trust Him fully.

Articles on Revelation 12’s War in Heaven:

1. Who are the Male Child, His mother, the Dragon and Michael?
2. When was Satan Defeated?
3. How did Michael overcome Satan?
4. Who are they who overcame Satan because of “their testimony?”
5. What evidence did Christ provide that refuted Satan’s accusations?
6. Why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross? (Current)

The Return of Christ in the Seven Last Plagues in the book of Revelation

At the return of Christ all things will be restored. There will no longer be any death, crying, or pain.  He will return on the clouds, with His angels, and with power and great glory.  It will not be a secret event, for every eye will see Him.  He will then judge the living and the dead.  His elect will come to life, but the living wicked will die.  The return of Christ will not be a single, sudden event, but will be preceded and followed by many other events.  The purpose of these events is to prove the accuracy of God’s judgments.

A series of articles on this website discusses the Second Coming in the New Testament.  The purpose of the current article is to explain the Return of Christ from the book of Revelation.  

Seven Parts

The book of Revelation consists of seven parts:

  1. Seven letters to the seven churches (1-3);
  2. The book with the seven seals (4-7);
  3. Seven trumpets (8-11);
  4. Seven wars (12-14);
  5. Seven last plagues (15-19);
  6. Millennium (20); and
  7. The new heavens and new earth (21-22).

Four of seven these parts end with the Return of Christ, but the most complete description of His return is found in the seven plagues.  Actually, all seven plagues describe of the “Day of the Lord,” which including the Return of Christ.  For this reason, this article provides an overview of the final events as presented in the seven last plagues.

Summary

This is a summary of the sequence of final events.  The detailed discussion follows below.

Mark of the beast 

The story of the Return of Christ commences with the war in Revelation 13, where the image of the beast becomes alive (13:15) and forces all people to accept the mark of the beast (13:16-18).  But a limited number of people, symbolically 144000, refuse to worship the beast or his image, or to receive his “mark on their forehead and on their hand” (20:4).  This battle therefore divides the world into two clearly identified groups, those with the mark of the beast, and the 144000 with the name of God on their foreheads.

A time will come, during the persecution of God’s people by the image of the beast, when every person has made his or her final decision for or against God.  When this happens, the number of the 144000 and that the separation of the people of the world into these two classes has been completed.  Then “one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God” (15:7).  From this point on there will be no repentance.  All choices are final.

Purpose of the Plagues 

The plagues bring world-wide catastrophes, but do not affect God’s people (16:2).  The plagues only fall on “the people who had the mark of the beast” (16:2).  But still “they blasphemed the God of heaven … and they did not repent” (16:11).  That is the purpose of the plagues: It is a test to show that the characters of “the people who had the mark of the beast” (16:2) are permanently fixed, and that they are unable to repent, even in the most adverse conditions, even with clear evidence that they are wrong.  In other words, the purpose is to prove that God judges accurately.

Kings join forces against God

While world-wide disasters continue, unrepentant humanity receives supernatural support to convince the world rulers to join forces “for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (16:14).  However, God put it in their heart to destroy Babylon (Rev 17:16-17), which is the false religion that have always ruled over the kings of this world.

Resurrection

All “who have fallen asleep … in Christ” (1 Thess. 4:15-16) are “made alive” (1 Cor. 15:20).  This is “the first resurrection” (20:5).  Together with the 144000, they are “caught up … in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

His bride “made herself ready”; “It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints”.  They “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:9, 14).  The Return of Christ is being delayed until His bride is ready!

The war of the great day 

The kings of the earth and their armies (are) assembled (gathered together) to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army” (19:19).  The entire unrepentant population of the world is killed (19:21) and Satan is bound in the abyss “so that he would not deceive the nations any longer” (20:3).

Millennium

One Thousand Years later all of God’s human enemies, from all ages, are made alive (20:5).  “Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations” (20:7-8) and “gather them together for the war” (20:8).  They surround “the camp of the saints(20:9), but “fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (20:9).  In other words, they die for a second time.  This is the second death (20:14).  Many of the things which we may think happen at the Return of Christ, therefore actually happen a thousand years later, such as the “resurrection of judgment” (John 5:27-29) and the burning up of “the earth and its works” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

The end 

Eventually all evil is thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the end. “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).  “There will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

These end-time events will now be discussed in more detail.  However, this is still an overview, as the plagues are discussed in separate articles in more detail.

Return of Christ in the Plagues

Image of the beast

Mark of the beast – The story of the Return of Christ may be commenced with the war in Revelation 13, where the image of the beast becomes alive (13:15) and forces all people to accept the mark of the beast (13:16-18).

144000 The next verses (14:1-5) describe the 144000.  While the mark of the beast is put on peoples’ right hands and foreheads (13:16), the 144000 have “His name and the name of His Father” on their foreheads (14:1).  In 7:1-8 this is called the seal of God.

Chapter divisions sometimes make it more difficult to understand the Bible.  This also applies to Revelation 13 and 14.  Since the mark of the beast and the seal of God are similar, but contrasted at the end of Revelation 13 and the beginning of Revelation 14, we conclude that the seal of God in the first verses of Revelation 14 is part of the description of the war with the mark of the beast in Revelation 13.  We furthermore conclude that the war with the image of the beast will divide the people of the world into two clearly identified groups, those with the mark of the beast and the 144000 who are “those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand” (20:4).  They refuse to accept the mark of the beast.

Since the 144000 are shown in 14:1 as standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion, the vision in 14:1 implies a key turning point in history, namely when the number of the 144000 has been completed, which means that the separation of the people of the world into these two groups has been completed.

Plagues

Victorious ones The description of the plagues commences in Revelation 15, where John saw “those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass” (15:2).  This description means that they are the same as the 144000.  In other words, 15:2 shows us exactly the same group of people as 14:1, and at exactly the same point in history, namely at the height of the persecution of God’s people by the image of the beast, when the separation of the people of the world into two groups has been completed, when every person has made his or her final decision for or against God, but before the plagues are poured out (Rev. 16).  These “victorious” ones stand on the “sea of glass” (15:2), which is before God’s throne (4:6).  They therefore symbolically stand before the throne of God, but they are still on earth.

Wrath of God Then “one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God” (15:7).  The four living creatures are “in the center and around the throne” (4:6), confirming that this wrath comes from God.

Temple shut Next “the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished” (15:8).  Since the temple is where God is (7:15; 16:17), this signifies that nobody is able to come to God any longer; there will be no turning to God (repentance) during the plagues.  This confirms that all choices are final.  Then the saying will be true:

Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy” (Rev. 22:11)

First four plagues

The first four plagues fall on the earth, sea, waters and sun respectively.  The number four in Revelation symbolizes the entire world, for instance in 5:9; 7:1, 9; 13:7 and 17:15.  Like the first four seals and the first four trumpets, these first four plagues should not be interpreted individually; they merely imply world-wide catastrophes.  The important points rather are that:

God’s people are not affected by these plagues (16:2) and that
The people who had the mark of the beast” (16:2) “did not repent” (16:9).

Fifth Plague

The fifth plague falls “on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain” (16:10).  Since the catastrophes only fall on the people with the mark of the beast, and not on God’s people, the authority of the beast is eroded, but still “they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds” (16:11).  That is the purpose of the plagues, it is namely a test to show that the characters of “the people who had the mark of the beast” (16:2) are permanently fixed, and that they will not repent, even in the most adverse conditions, even they have clear evidence that they are wrong.  It proves that they do not want God, and that God’s judgment of them is correct.

Sixth Plague

The kings of the world join forces against God. In the sixth plague, while disasters continue, the unrepentant humanity receives supernatural support in the form of “spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (16:14).  But note; the war is not yet described.

Seventh Plague

Babylon is destroyed.  In the seventh plague Babylon receives “the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath” (16:19).  Revelation 17-18 then interrupts the chronological flow of events to explain who Babylon is (17:7):

She is a harlot woman (17:5) that sits on the beast with its seven heads and ten horns.  This symbol is explained as “the woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth” (17:18).

She also “sits on many waters” (17:1).  The “many waters” are explained as the “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” (17:15).  [Note the hidden number four.]  Her sitting on the “many waters” is explained as that “those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality” (17:2).

In her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18:24).  She therefore existed from the time of Cain and Abel.

See the article Babylon, the mother of harlots for further information.  She is the false system of religion that, in all ages, controls the rulers of the world.

Revelation 17-18 also explains the gathering of the kings during the sixth plague (17:12-14), as well as the destruction of Babylon during the seventh plague (17:16-17).  Revelation often have such “flashbacks” and our ability to put these flashbacks in their correct historical setting is critical for a correct interpretation of its prophecies.  See the article on Revelation 17 for more detail.

Revelation 19

The destruction of Babylon is continued.  Revelation 17-18 is an interlude, and the story in Revelation 16 continues in Revelation 19, where “a great multitude in heaven” (19:1, 6) praises God:

For He has judged the great harlot (Babylon) who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of his bond-servants on her” (19:1-5).

In the seventh plague, at the end of Revelation 16, Babylon was given “the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath” (16:19).  Here, in the beginning of Revelation 19, God is here praised for the destruction of Babylon.  This confirms that Revelation 19 continues where the seventh plague left off.

The multitude also praises Him “for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready” (19:7).  Three concepts in this verse demand further explanation, namely the “marriage of the Lamb”, “His bride” and the word “ready”.

 

Marriage of the Lamb

marriage of the lambThe marriage of the Lamb is “our gathering together to Him” (2 Thess. 2:1).  Or, as stated by 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord”.

His bride 

The plagues commenced with the 144000 “victorious” ones standing before God’s throne (15:2).  They are therefore included in “His bride” (19:7), but according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “the dead in Christ will rise first”.  Only then will all God’s people meet Him (v17), which is the “marriage of the Lamb”.  “His bride” therefore also includes the resurrected saints.  A little later in Revelation we will read about them.  They are:

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” (20:4).

The “dead in Christ” (1 Thess. 4:16) from all previous generations will rise in “the first resurrection” (20:5).  They are now immortal; “over these the second death has no power” (20:6). “In the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:52-53).

Ready 

This concept of His bride “made herself ready” (19:7) is explained by the next verse:

It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints”.

Her clothes are clean, which does not only mean that she is forgiven, for her “fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints”.  She therefore also has “overcome”:

He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (3:21).

He who overcomes will inherit these things” (21:7). (See also 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 5:5)

She “made herself ready” (19:7).  As said of the “great multitude”; they “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:9, 14).

This concept, of the bride being “ready”, which means that God’s people have “overcome” their sinful desires through, is also found elsewhere in Revelation:

In 7:1-4 God is “holding back the four winds of the earth” “until we have sealed the (144000) bond-servants of our God on their foreheads” (compare 6:11).  Stated differently, the end-time forces of destruction are held back until they are ready.

Once they are sealed, they are described as “the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.  And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.” (14:4,5)  This means that they are not only forgiven, but through the power of the Holy Spirit they have developed characters in agreement with their Maker.

When “one like a son of man” comes, “sitting on the cloud”, an angel cries out in a loud voice, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe” (14:14-15).  The harvest of the earth refers to God’s elect (14:17-20).

The ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (14:4) are “those who are with Him” (17:14).  They are “called and chosen and faithful” (17:14).

One of the angels invited John, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (21:9).  Then John saw “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2, compare v10).

We often ask why the return of Christ is delayed.  From 7:1-3 we learn that the return of Christ is being delayed until His bride is ready.  God is waiting for a people that is ready.  Preachers often emphasize our total depravity (Romans 3) and that we are saved by grace.  However, the Lord will not return until He has a people that are able to overcome the beast and his image.  Just like Jesus overcame, our quest is to overcome.

Our quest is to be the 144000.  Like the Lord did, we need to be willing to give up everything, even our earthly lives, for Him and His truth.  This the 144000 will do, not to be saved, for their own salvation is not important for them, but because they love Him.

The 144000 will make it possible for God to make an end to this age of sin.  Just like the purpose of the plagues is to prove that God judges the people with the mark of the beast correctly; that they are unable to change, the end time trials will prove God’s judgment of His people; that the people with the seal of God—the people whom God elected—will not surrender their faith in God, “even when faced with death” (12:11). What they will do will not only say something about themselves; it will be a testimony about all of God’s elect for all ages.  Christ died to demonstrate God’s “righteousness … so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).  In the same way the 144000 will demonstrate God’s “righteousness” by demonstrating the characters of God’s elect.  Like Job, they will prove that God was right when He elected certain individuals as Him.  That is our quest.  Please read the War in Heaven for more information.

Return of Christ 

Return of ChristThe “marriage of the Lamb” is followed by the Return of Christ.  Here Jesus is “called The Word of God” (19:13) and the “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (19:16).  He sits on “a white horse” (19:11) and is followed by the “armies which are in heaven … on white horses” (19:14).  According to Matthew 16:27 & 25:31, Jesus will return with His angels.  Furthermore, Revelation 12 describes a war in heaven between two groups of angels (12:7).  The “armies which are in heaven” therefore are His angels.

War of the Great Day 

In the sixth plague the kings of the world are gathered at Armageddon (16:16) “for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (16:14), but that war was not described in the sixth plague.  That plague describes only the gathering.  Now, at the Return of Christ “the kings of the earth and their armies (are) assembled (gathered together) to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army” (19:19).  The “war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (16:14) is therefore the Return of Christ.  In this war all people are “killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse” (19:21).  In other words, Christ speaks and they die.  The entire unrepentant population of the world is killed, while God’s people are “caught up … in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:15).

Satan bound – Now that the dead in Christ has “come to life” (20:4-5) and the entire unrepentant population of the world is dead (19:21), Satan is bound in the abyss “so that he would not deceive the nations any longer” (20:3).  After the Male Child is caught up to God and yo His throne (12:5), Satan is thrown out of heaven, down to earth (12:7-9).  Now he is thrown further down into the abyss.  Still later he will be thrown still further down “into the lake of fire and brimstone” (20:10).

MillenniumDuring the thousand years God’s people will sit on thrones “and judgment was given to them” (20:4).  They will evaluate the evidence to understand why they are alive while so many of their loved ones are dead.  “They will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years” (20:6).

One thousand years after the Return of Christ the “rest of the dead” (“all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness” – Mat 13:41) from all ages, come to life (20:5).  “Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations” (20:7-8).  He will “gather them together for the war” (20:8).  They will surround “the camp of the saints(20:9).  End-time humanity rose to war against God before the Return of Christ; one thousand years later all people of all generations prepare to continue that war against God.  But “fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (20:9).  In other words, they die for a second time; this is the “second death” (20:14).

God’s Judgments confirmed – Why does God resurrect all His human enemies, just to kill them again?  Why does He release Satan to again deceive the nations?  It is proposed that this will be a test of His judgments.  Just like the purpose of the plagues is to show that the people with the mark of the beast will change; not even when they know that they are wrong, the purpose of the events at the end of the thousand years is to convince the universe and His elect of the rightness of His judgments.

In the judgment before the great white throne “books were opened” (20:12), “and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (20:15).  The destruction of Satan and hostile humanity is based on evidence.  For a thousand years God’s people will have had the opportunity to study the records (20:4) to understand why certain people receive “eternal life” and others receive “eternal punishment” (Mat. 25:41, 46).  That is how God rules; He wants His intelligent creatures to agree with Him, not because of fear, but because they are convinced that He is right.  He rules in love: love is the driving force behind all of His decisions.  That is why God brings His enemies to life again, namely to allow God’s people to see for themselves, after they have studied the records for a thousand years, that some of their loved ones are hardened beyond repair; nothing more can be done for them; they cannot be allowed into the New Heaven and New Earth (21:1).  “Nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it” (21:27).

The dead – Since God’s enemies are killed for a second time when “fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (20:9), and since there is no indication that they come to life for a third time, “the dead, the great and the small” which John saw “standing before the throne” (20:12), are not living people standing before a physical throne. They stand symbolically to be judged.  And it is not God that judges; it is God’s intelligent creatures that evaluate His judgments.

Lake of Fire – Eventually all evil is in the lake of fire.  At the return of Christ, the beast and the false prophet are “thrown alive into the lake of fire” (20:20).  A thousand years later the devil is thrown into the lake (20:10), and finally also all of God’s human enemies (20:14-15).  The lake of fire “is the second death” (20:14).  In Revelation, whenever a being is thrown into the “lake of fire” (19:20; 20:10; 20:14-15), that being is never again seen doing anything.  The “lake of fire” is the “eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mat 25:41), also called the “unquenchable fire” (Mt. 3:12) or the “furnace of fire” into which “those who commit lawlessness” will be thrown “at the end of the age” (Mt. 13:40-42).

New earth – John saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away” (21:1).  Perhaps this means that this physical world, on which so much evil has been committed, will be completely obliterated.  As Peter wrote, “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).

Thousand years apart – One purpose of this discussion is to show that the duration of “the day of the Lord” is actually one thousand years.  Many of the things which we may think happen at the Return of Christ will actually happen one thousand years later.  This includes the “resurrection of judgment” (John 5:27-29) and the burning up of “the earth and its works” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

Conclusion

The previous article, on the Second Coming in the New Testament, analyzed a large number of verses that describe the return of Christ.  The current article focusses on the return of Christ as described in Revelation, and specifically in the Seven Plagues.  The book of Revelation confirms the conclusions of the previous article.  Similar to what was found in the previous article:

The return of Christ is “the great day” (6:17 – compare Luke 17:24; Phil. 1:10; 1 Thess. 5:2, 23; 2 Thess. 2:1-2; 2 Peter 3:10).

That great day will be “the … restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21), for John saw “new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away” (Rev. 21:1).  “There will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

The return of Christ will be preceded by signs in the sky; the sun and moon will be darkened, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Rev, 6:12-14 – compare Mt. 24:29; Luke 21:25-26).

He will return “on the cloud” (Rev. 14:14 – compare Mat. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27; Acts 1:9-11; 2 Thess. 1:7; Rev. 1:7);

He will return with power and great glory (Rev. 19:11-16 – compare Mt. 16:27; 24:30; 25:31; Mark 8:38; Mark 13:26; Luke 9:26; Luke 21:27).

He will return with His angels (Rev. 19:11 (armies of heaven) – compare Mt. 16:27; 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26;

The return of Christ will not be a secret event, for “every eye will see Him” (Rev. 1:7 – compare Luke 17:23; Mt. 24:27, 30; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thess. 4:16; Mat. 24:31).

He will judge the living and the dead; He will reap the “harvest of the earth” (Rev. 14:15-16), which is His elect, and He will reap “vine of the earth … and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God” (Rev. 14:18-19 – compare Mt. 16:27; Mt. 25:31-46; Rom. 2:5-8, 16; 1 Thess. 5:2, 23; Rev. 6:15-17; 7:9; 14:14-20.)

On that day His elect “came to life” (Rev. 20:4 – compare John 5:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:20-23; 1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Tim. 1:25).

The wicked will try to hide from His presence (Rev. 6:15-17), but they will be “killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Rev. 19:21 – compare Luke 17:29-30; 1 Thess. 5:3; 1 Cor. 15:24; Rom. 2:5; 2 Thess. 2:8; Mat. 24:30; Rev. 1:7).

Jesus said “I am coming quickly” (3:11), which may mean unexpectedly, but probably means soon (compare Mt. 16:28; 24:34; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27).

Revelation therefore confirms the conclusions from the previous article, but significantly expands on the description of the “Day of the Lord”.  This is not simply the physical Return of Christ, but includes a long list of events preceding and following the Return of Christ, as described in Revelation 15 to 20, stretched over a period of 1000 years.  These events are very important, because their purpose is to prove the accuracy of God’s judgments.

TO: Table of Contents of the articles on the Second Coming

TO: General Table of Contents

Eternal Life and Eternal Torment according to Paul, Jesus and Revelation

Overview

The traditional view in the church, with respect to Eternal Life, includes that:

All people have IMMORTAL SOULS, and
Sinners will suffer in hell for ALL ETERNITY.

The purpose of this article is to show that the wicked will not suffer eternally, for they will die an eternal death.  To prove this, this article shows the following:

Only God’s people will receive eternal life.
God promises to give eternal life ONLY when Jesus returns and ONLY to those who persevere in doing good.  Sinners will not receive eternal life. That implies that sinners will die.

Paul never wrote that sinners will suffer in hell for eternity.
He does NOT use the word “hell” even once.

Paul consistently warns sinners that they will die:
For example, he explicitly wrote, “if you are living according to the flesh, you must die.”  And, “the wages of sin is death.

The opposite of death is Eternal Life.
The opposite of the death, which sinners will die, according to both Paul and Jesus, is Eternal Life.  This means that their death will be an Eternal Death.

This article also discusses eternal torment according to Jesus and according to the Book of Revelation.

Only God’s people will receive Eternal Life.

Some Bible statements promise eternal life without mentioning death as the alternative.  In these instances, eternal life is promised only to God’s people:

God, who will render to each person according to his deeds:
to those who by perseverance in doing good
immortality, eternal life;
but to those who are selfishly
wrath and indignation” (Rom. 2:5-8).

Immortality and eternal life, according to this verse, is not something which people already have, but something which God will, in the future, on “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (v5), “will render to those who by perseverance in doing good.”

The following are further indications that we do not yet have immortality, and that only believers will receive eternal life:

 “We believe in Him FOR eternal life“ (1Tim 1:16).

We are heirs according to the HOPE of eternal life“ (Titus 3:7).

Take hold of the eternal life
to which you were CALLED
“ (1Tim 6:12).

God … PROMISED eternal life long ages ago” (Titus 1:2).

Since eternal life is promised only to those who persevere in doing good (Rom. 2:7), such verses imply that “those who obey unrighteousness” will NOT live eternally.  That means that they will die.

Paul consistently warns sinners that they will die.

Unrighteousness, wickedness, greed …
those who practice such things
are WORTHY OF DEATH
” (Rom. 1:29-32).

 “If you are living according to the flesh,
YOU MUST DIE;
but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body,
YOU WILL LIVE
“ (Rom. 8:13).

You are slaves of the one whom you obey,
either of sin RESULTING IN DEATH, or of
obedience resulting in righteousness”
(Rom. 6:16).

The WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH  (Rom. 6:23).

The opposite of death is Eternal Life. 

In Paul’s writings, the opposite of this death, which sinners will die, is explicitly and consistently Eternal Life:

As SIN REIGNED IN death,
even so GRACE WOULD REIGN … to
eternal life” (Rom. 5:21).

 “You are slaves … either of SIN RESULTING IN death, …
But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God …
THE OUTCOME,
eternal life.” (Rom. 6:16, 21-22)

The wages of sin is death,
but the free gift of God is eternal life
” (Rom 6:23).

The one who sows to his own flesh
will from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit
will from the Spirit reap
eternal life” (Gal. 6:8).

The Greek word translated “corruption” in this verse is phthoraStrong’s concordance defines this word as “destruction, corruption.”  In 1 Corinthians 15:42 it is used to describe our existing mortal bodies as “perishable.

The following is another verse to show that the opposite of the death, which sinners must die, is eternal life:

Our Saviour Christ Jesus abolished death
and brought life and immortality to light
” (2Tim 1:10).

This verse does not refer to “eternal life” as such, but “life and immortality” have the same meaning.

Conclusion

Since the opposite of “death” is “eternal life,” the death that Paul consistently warns about, is not the temporary death that faces all people.  It is, rather, eternal death; that awful and irreversible death which only sinners will suffer. 

Revelation refers to it as the second death:

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
” (Rev 20:14).

Jesus contrasted Eternal Life with Death.

He who … believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life,
and does not come into judgment,
but has passed out of death into life
” (John 5:24)

An hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs
will hear His voice, and will come forth;
those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life,
those who committed the evil deeds
to a resurrection of judgment
” (v28-29).

in verse 24, Jesus, similar to Paul, refers to eternal life, which He also contrasted with “death” and “judgment.”  “Judgment” here, is therefore not the process of decision-making, but the execution of the judgment, namely that horrible and irreversible, eternal death.

In verses 28-29, Jesus said that all people who ever lived will be resurrected.  Some will be resurrected to “life,” which is the eternal life of verse 24.  But the others will be resurrected to “judgment,” which is the opposite of eternal life.  Since life here is eternal, death here is also eternal.

Jesus, furthermore, said that God “is able to destroy BOTH BODY AND SOUL in hell” (Mat. 10:28).  Here He did not mention man’s spirit, but the intention seems to be that God is able to destroy human beings entirely.  Is that not also fairly obvious?  How could it be impossible for God to destroy something which He created Himself?

Jesus Explained Eternal Hell

But if Jesus said that sinners will die an eternal death, why did He speak about eternal torment?  Paul never mentioned the “hell”, but Christ most certainly did (Mat. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 12:5).  He called it “the fiery hell” (Mat. 5:22; 18:9); “the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44, 46, 48).

It is often assumed that Jesus, with these words, taught that the wicked will be tormented in hell for all eternity, but what Jesus said was that the worm is immortal; not the man.  These are symbols.  In ancient times people sometimes destroyed corpses by fire, but when wood was in short supply, a portion of the body remained.  And due to the dry conditions, corpses sometimes dried up and the worms died before the corpse was fully consumed.  Therefore the expression, the “worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched,” simply means that nothing will remain; “both soul and body” will be consumed (Mat. 10:28).

Eternal Torment in the Book of Revelation

Some of the strongest evidence for eternal torment, as proposed by some, comes from the book of Revelation.  This book does not use the word “hell” either, but it does say that the person who “worships the beast and his image:”

“… will be TORMENTED with fire and brimstone
in the presence of the holy angels
and in the presence of the Lamb.
And the smoke of their torment goes up FOREVER AND EVER;
they have no rest day and night
” (14:9-11). 

This “fire and brimstone” refers to the “lake of fire and brimstone,” where “the devil … the beast and the false prophet … will (also) be tormented day and night FOREVER AND EVER” (20:10).  How do we reconcile this with Paul’s consistent view that sinners will die, and with Christ’s statement that God will destroy body and soul in hell?

Our response is that Revelation is a book of symbols, and the following shows that the eternal torment in revelation is symbolic:  

(1) Smoke rises forever.

It is not the people that will be tormented forever and ever.  Rather, it is the smoke of their torment that goes up forever and ever. 

Babylon’s smoke will also go “up forever and ever” (17:18; 19:3), but she is not a literal person that can be tormentedBabylon is a symbol of the anti-God religious system that has ruled over the kings of the world of all ages. 

Furthermore, the “ten horns … will burn her up with fire” (17:16), which means that she will be fully and completely destroyed. This happens even before the return of Christ. 

The ever-rising smoke is, therefore, a symbol. It means that the horrific destruction of people, who are loved by God and His people, will never be forgotten.  People will remember it for as long as they live, and they will live “forever and ever.”

(2) Beast tormented forever

As a further example of the figurative nature of this eternal torment, the beast will also be “tormented day and night forever and ever” in “the lake of fire and brimstone” (20:10), but the beast is not a literal person.  It is a symbolic representation of worldly powers that have opposed God for thousands of years. (Compare Revelation 13:2 with Daniel 7).  The beast, therefore, cannot literally be tormented forever in an eternal hell.  This eternal torment must be understood as a symbol.

(3) Lake of Fire

The people with the mark of the beast are “tormented with fire and brimstone” (14:9).  “Fire and brimstone” is the lake of fire (19:20) into which these people are thrown (20:15).  This lake of fire is twice identified as “the second death” (20:14; 21:8).  This means that this death is different from the first death.  All people are resurrected from death (Rev. 20:5; John 5:28-29).  Therefore, all people live twice.  But the worshipers of the beast also die the second death (19:21; 20:9).  After the judgment of the dead (20:11, 12), their death becomes final and irreversible when they are thrown into the lake of fire (20:15).

Furthermore, once a being is cast into the lake of fire, he is never again seen doing anything.  For example:

The beast and the false prophet “were thrown alive into the lake of fire” when Christ returns (19:11).  Thereafter they never again do anything in Revelation. 

The devil is cast into the lake of fire one thousand years later (20:10) and never again seen. 

The same applies to the people with the mark of the beast, who are cast into the lake of fire after the judgment (20:15; cf. 20:11).

(4) Tormented in the presence of the Lamb

revelation 14:10 says that the worshipers of the beast “will be tormented … in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”  Literally interpreted, this means that the Lamb and His angels will remain in hell forever, which is ridiculous. God gave Christ “authority to execute judgment” (John 5:27), and this is what He will do.  “The end” will only come “when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power” (1 Cor. 15:24).

Summary of this article

Do people have immortal souls?  This article shows that the wicked do NOT have eternal life inherently and will NOT be tormented eternally, justified as follows:

Firstly,

Only God’s people will receive eternal life; and
They will only receive eternal life when Christ returns.

This means that people are not currently or inherently immortal. It also means that the wicked will not become immortal, which implies that they will die.

Secondly, Paul never wrote that sinners will suffer in hell for eternity.  Rather, he consistently:

Warned that sinners will Die, and he
Contrasted this death with Eternal Life

This implies that sinners will die; not the temporary death that faces all people, but an Eternal Death; that awful and irreversible death which only sinners will suffer, which Revelation refers to as the second death.

Jesus and hell

Thirdly, Jesus also contrasted “death” and eternal life.  He said that all people who ever lived will be resurrected.  Some will be resurrected to eternal life, but the others will be resurrected to death, which is also eternal, for God “is able to destroy BOTH BODY AND SOUL in hell” (Mat. 10:28). 

But then, why did Jesus speak about “the fiery hell,” “the unquenchable fire,” “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched?”  It is often assumed that Jesus, with these words, taught that the wicked will be tormented eternally.  However, this is symbolic.  In ancient times people sometimes destroyed corpses by fire, but when wood was in short supply, a portion of the body remained.  And due to the hot, dry conditions, the corpse sometimes dried up and the worms died before the corpse was fully consumed.  But when God destroys the body and soul in hell, the “worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”  These human beings will be completely destroyed.

Revelation and hell

Revelation claims that the worshipers of the beast:

“… will be tormented with fire and brimstone
in the presence of the holy angels
and in the presence of the LAMB.
And the SMOKE of their torment goes up
FOREVER AND EVER
” (14:9-11). 

This also is symbolic.  Revelation is a book of symbols.  This is true of the book in general, but the following shows in particular that this eternal torment is symbolic:

Smoke – Babylon’s smoke will also go “up forever and ever,” but she is not a person.  Babylon is a symbol of the anti-God religious system. Furthermore, she will be totally destroyed by the ten horns. The ever-rising smoke symbolizes that the horrific destruction of people, who are loved by God and His people, will never be forgotten.

Tormented – The beast will also be “tormented day and night forever and ever,” but the beast is not a literal person and therefore cannot literally be tormented.

Fire and brimstone – This is the lake of fire, and is twice explained as “the second death.”  Once a being is cast into the lake of fire, he is never again seen doing anything.

Presence of the Lamb – The worshipers of the beast “will be tormented … in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”  Literally interpreted, this means that the Lamb and His angels will remain in hell forever, which is ridiculous.

Conclusion

The idea of immortal punishment results from the concept of the immortal soul.  That man has an immortal soul was the generally accepted Greek philosophical view in the world in which Christianity arose.  Although it is foreign to Judaism and Christianity, it soon became accepted in the church and is today defended in the Church as orthodox.  However, it is actually the first lie recorded in the Bible, when the serpent said to Eve, “You surely will not die” (Gen. 3:4).  

An immortal soul is illogical.  How can there be anything which God created which He cannot again destroy?

The concept of an immortal soul is also a rebellion against God.  The promise of the Bible is a resurrection from death, which depends on God’s miraculous power, but the concept of the immortal soul says that we do not need God.