In Revelation 20, Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. Evil is destroyed. It is described as The Second Death. In our last episode, we explored what happens to believers, but in this episode, Tim acknowledges that we can’t know what will happen to those who were not faithful witnesses. In the tension of this mystery, all we need to know is that being a faithful witness is totally worth it. Our actions on earth matter and have consequences in the time to come.
What’s going to happen to the people who aren’t reigning?
We have a lot of people who want to know exactly what’s going to happen. How is this going to come about? And what’s going to happen to the people who aren’t reigning during the thousand years? And I think the answer’s quite definitive: I don’t know what’s going to be happening to those people. I’m very confident of that.
But the ones who are the overcomers, who are the victors, who have paid the price, who have been the faithful witnesses, I think it’s pretty clear they’re included in the them that’s going to reign and live with Christ for a thousand years. Live with Christ. We were dead, and now we’re raised to life again, and now we’re going to be reigning for a thousand years.
The dead who don’t live again until the thousand years are finished
But the rest of the dead, in verse 5, did not live again until the thousand years were finished.
Who are these people? And what does that include? I’m not sure, but there’s one aspect of this that’s very interesting. Let’s look at Isaiah 65:19. This is a millennial-kingdom passage. It says,
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
And joy in My people;
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.
No more shall an infant from there live but a few days—There’s not going to be any infant mortality in this time period.
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old—
Death occurs during the millennial kingdom
In the Millennial Kingdom, when somebody reaches a hundred years, they’re going to still be considered a child. Death is going to be a very rare thing during the Millennial Kingdom. But not something that doesn’t happen all together.
So there’ll be some dead that take place during the millennial kingdom, although it’s rare. That’s interesting.
The first resurrection
Who else is dead that is not resurrected until the thousand years are finished? Let’s look at this idea of the first resurrection in verse 5. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.
So you’re blessed, happy, makarios. It’s the same thing as blessed are the poor in spirit in the Beatitudes. Happy. This is really a happy thing if you get to be in the first resurrection.
Philippians 3:11 says something that’s kind of similar. Let’s start back in verse 8. Paul’s talking about being a faithful witness. One you get attuned to looking at this faithful-witness idea, it’s all through the Bible. Philippians 3:8: Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish—
So everything I’ve lost, I count just like somebody came and took my trash out.
—that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection—in my daily life today, because that’s what Paul admonishes us to do. This is how we become a faithful witness. Live the resurrected life, not the “old man” life.
—and the fellowship of His sufferings. If we live the resurrected life, we will suffer with Jesus. And then he says, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the out-resurrection—this is exanastasis. It’s a different word that means the out-resurrection. This is the only time it’s used—from the dead. A special resurrection.
So maybe that’s what it is. And clearly he’s not doubting whether he’s righteous in the sight of God, that he’s been justified before God. There’s no doubt there.
What there is here is I’m not teleo with my life. I’m not finished. I’m not completed. And I know if I want to win this special resurrection, I have to make it all the way to the finish line. The Apostle Paul thinks that way.
That’s challenging, don’t you think? But there’s no retirement from the Christian walk. There’s no pushing in the clutch and coasting through the finish line. There is be a faithful witness until death.
And it’s never too late to start, no matter how old you are. It’s never too late to start because the first will be last and the last will be first.
Remember the parable of the guy that’s at 3:00 and work stops at 5:00, and he gets called to the vineyard, and he works two hours and gets a full day’s pay, and everybody complains, “Hey! I worked all day. I got the same amount of money!” And Jesus says, “So what’s your problem if I want to be generous to the guy who was waiting all day long for a job and then started and gave me two good hours?” It’s never too late.
And never quit. Those are really clear principles here.
But there’s some kind of special resurrection, and maybe that’s what this is talking about, the first resurrection. Maybe this is an overcomer’s resurrection, and it’s associated with reigning with Christ for a thousand years.
There are consequences to believers’ actions on earth
I find in conversation, sometimes this is an unwelcome thought for people; but in conversation with them, it’s because they want the idea that there’s no real consequences to their actions on earth. And the idea that there’s something that they miss out on, that’s so amazing that it would really be devastating to miss out, is something they don’t really want to think about.
Well, there’s a reason why God gave us this admonition. It’s so we can see and get some encouragement to do what we need to do now.
You know, most people don’t run past what they feel they’re capable of in order to really get in shape without a coach yelling at them. You need some exhortation. You need some people saying, “You’re going to lose in the fourth quarter if you don’t do this extra work.”
And that’s the idea here. This is not easy; but it’s worth it, more than worth it.
The second death
Verse 6. We see this second death. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power—
Now the second death, later in this chapter in verse 14, it’s clearly spelled out what it is. If you look over at verse 14, Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
The second death, I think clearly, is the lake of fire. And if we look back in Revelation 2:10, it says, Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. This is the suffering church. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested—
Now who would have actually thrown them into prison in that day? We’re back in the letter to the churches that existed at that time. Would they have seen a snake come and throw them into prison? It would have been a Roman soldier throwing them in prison.
But remember, Satan’s on the throne of Pergamos, so Satan’s going to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you’ll have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death—There’s the theme again.
—and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes—nikao, victor, he who is the victor, he who is the conqueror, he who submits others, he who finishes all the way to the end and wins—he who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.
This lake of fire is permanent for unbelievers but for believers it can be something that hurts. Well, sometimes that’s something that people don’t like to hear. But it’s all through the scripture. It’s not just something that is occasional.
We have a God that’s a consuming fire. If we’re in the presence of God, we’re in the presence of a consuming fire. And what we’re going to see a little later is that the sea’s going to give up the dead, and Hades is going to give up the dead, and we have to figure out what the sea and Hades is.
But what we do know is what the first resurrection people are doing. What everybody else is doing, I don’t think we’re told. It just doesn’t say.
There is a participation-trophy version of all of this that everybody gets a participation trophy and all this stuff about actual consequences, never mind. But that’s not what the scripture says.
Don’t judge other believers; concentrate on how your own works will be judged
And, in fact, you know, there’s this idea that—well, let’s just go to it. Let’s just go to 1 Corinthians 3:11. Paul is talking about these Corinthian believers who are deciding among themselves who follows Paul and who follows Apollos. And they’re saying, well, if you follow Apollos, you’re inferior to me. No, if you follow Paul, you’re inferior to me.
And Paul comes on and says, look, Apollos and I aren’t anything in particular. We have a job to do, and we’re doing our job. I laid the foundation; Apollos is building on it. And you’re judging between us. But you shouldn’t be doing that. You know why? Because you don’t get to judge. God gets to judge. And here’s how that’s going to work.
So start in verse 11. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ—And that’s what I did. Paul. Verse 12.
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—This is kind of like the three little pigs. There’s different kinds of things you can build a house out of. And if you build it out of brick, can the wolf blow it down? If you build it out of straw, can the wolf blow it down? That’s the idea.
So, you can build it with gold, silver, precious stones. Sturdy or not sturdy? Pretty sturdy, right? How about wood, hay, straw? Not so sturdy.
Here’s what happens: —each one’s work will become clear. Why? Because the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire. It’s not going to be a wolf huffing and puffing. It’s going to be a flame thrower comes along and says, let’s see how good this house is that you built. And if it’s wood, hay, and stubble and straw, it’s going to burn up. And if it’s gold, silver, and precious stones, it’s going to be refined and made even purer. That’s the idea.
Each one’s work will become clear.
Now we’re not talking about whether you get to be a child of God or not. That’s something Jesus does. That’s birth. We’re talking about what did you do during your life. And now that becomes clear. The Day, the judgment day will declare it.
Paul is saying, you can judge Apollos and me if you want to, but you’re sitting in someone else’s chair when you do that. And you’re making a judgment that doesn’t belong to you. Instead of judging between Apollos and me, what you should be doing is worrying about your own judgment. That’s what you should be worrying about. What are you doing? It’s one thing to judge Apollos and me. Focus on you and your work and what’s going to happen when your work is revealed. It will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test each one’s work of what sort it is.
If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. You’ll be an overcomer. You’ll be reigning, potentially. And I’m sure there are rewards for people who don’t make the reign.
There seems to be this gradation. It seems to be pretty clear that there’s a different grading of different people, and everyone’s graded on the basis of what they did with what they had. What gifts did you have and what opportunity do you have? To whom much is given, much is required. Which means to whom little is given, little is required, right? Because you can’t expect a child to do the work of a man.
If you go out and you’re digging a ditch and you give the little boy a shovel, and he gets ten scoops during the day and is trying, well, that’s pretty good. And if a grown man who’s really muscular says, “Well, he only did ten scoops. That’s all. I should only have to do eleven.” You look at the guy and say, “What kind of wimp are you? Get busy!” Right? It’s a matter of what you do with what you had.
Verse 15. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss. Here you are on the judgment day standing before Jesus suffering loss. Why? Because learning requires suffering. And discipleship doesn’t stop when we get to heaven. We’re all predestined to become conformed to the image of Christ. And that’s going to keep going until we’ve learned everything we need to learn. And that’s good for us. That’s why.
—he himself will be saved—So this isn’t are we going to pysche or not, or are our lives going to continue on. This is not are we really believers or not. This is who do we become. What is our station going to be?
—he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. There are going to be people in heaven during this time period that walk in a room and everybody says, “Smells like smoke in here. Who’s singed? Because they got in “so as through fire.”
And then it goes on, verse 16, Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. God does not like us messing with his works. And if you want to build up something that’s false in place of something that’s true, he’ll just knock it down, smash it. He’s not going to have that. Why? Because he’s called his people to holiness. And we’ve all been predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ.
Here’s our choice: Do we want to do it through the fiery trials of persevering obedience? Or do we want to do it by having everything burned up and then learning through that way as we lose the opportunity to reign on earth, and we’re doing I don’t know what. It doesn’t tell us.
Here’s why I think it doesn’t tell us. Our inclination, if it tells us, “Okay and here’s how it’s going to be for everybody else” is to say, “Hmmm, well it’s only a thousand years, and reigning on earth doesn’t sound all that good. It sounds like a lot of work. So you’re telling me I can wander in the desert and my shoes won’t wear out, and somebody will provide my food. All I have to do is go out and pick it up, and I won’t have many battles. Or I can go into this land, and I’m going to have giants and wars and trouble, but I get to own the land. Hmmm. I like Scottsdale better.”
That’s our tendency, you know? Because we tend to overemphasize the trouble that’s in front of us and deemphasize the trouble that’s coming. And I don’t think God wants us to make that evaluation.
The clear thing here is, look, I’m telling you which one’s better. Take the fiery trials. Be the faithful witness. And the picture he gives us here is—this sounds awful, this other alternative! It sounds like fire! And the lake of fire! Isn’t that where all these other people go? It sounds like loss.
That’s what I’m trying to get across. I’m trying to get across that by comparison, you don’t want that. You want to be the faithful witness. That’s the big point. That’s what I’m trying to get to you. Be the faithful witness.
Only two faithful spies. So maybe you have two million people and three of those got to go in. Moses suffered loss. And God said, “This is my favorite guy. Be like this guy. And, as a matter of fact, when I send my Messiah back, he’s going to be like this guy.” That’s how elevated he was. But you screwed up, so you don’t get the inheritance. Because to him much more was expected than of other people, right?
This isn’t easy. This isn’t easy. Narrow is the way. Few that go in.
But who does God want to win? Just his favorites? No. He wants all of us to win.
And how do we do that? It’s simple. Just be faithful with what God’s given you to do.
One of the things we tend to do is what the Corinthians did. I just don’t have the gifts that Allen has so I’m off the hook. Or I don’t have the gift that Warren has, so I’m off the hook.
I cannot exercise Warren’s gifts. Why? I’m not Warren! Warren can exercise Warren’s gifts, and he’s going to give account to God for what he does. I’m going to give account for what I do, for what I had to deal with. None of us knows what everybody else is dealing with. That’s going to be God’s determination.
We do spend a lot of time deciding on behalf of God how good everybody else is doing. We do that. It’s just kind of naturally built in. And the admonition here is—don’t do that. Spend time figuring out—where am I before God?
In 1 John, it tells us that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I believe what that’s telling us is that although all of our works are judged, and if we’re faithful, we get a reward; there’s always an opportunity to start over and reset by confessing.
Now, confessing means you’ve got to become aware. And 1 John tells us that if we sin, we have an advocate with the Father. And most of our sin we’re not even aware of, and Jesus just takes care of it. His blood covers it.
I’m really grateful for that because as I grow in life, I become more and more aware of my sin, and my opinion of myself keeps going down. I probably still only see a tiny bit of the corruption that’s actually there. I’m glad he just takes care of the rest.
But, again, what he wants me to do is deal with what I have and what I know. And what he wants me to do is look at the sin I can see, the corruption of my flesh I can see, and he’s going to say, “What are you going to do with that?”
If I can confess, which means I take his view of it, and I say I’m going to look at that flesh and say that’s a dead, corrupt, rotten, nasty animal that wants to drag me down into the depths that that serpent’s at. And put it to death. And walk in the newness of life. If I can do that on a daily basis, I have a little gold. I find a little fleck of gold in my pan. And I can take that and build my building with it.
And when I mess up, I think we can actually deal with those things here on earth.
But you know what confession is? Painful! Have you found that?
I think it was Gus in Lonesome Dove who said, “Confession is like a dry shave.” It hurts! That’s part of the fire of difficulty. And the point is take it now. Take the difficulty now. It pays in the long run.