Death and Judgment
IN CONSIDERING God's judgments it will help us greatly to keep in mind that, for all their good as divine operations, they do not deliver anyone from sin. The judgment of the “second death ” that results from the great white throne judgment, is made in view of the past actions of those judged, not in view of future amelioration in the new earth.
Far from being a gateway to life and righteousness, the judgment of the great white throne leads to death. The lake of fire “is ” the second death in that, as the agency which is its cause, the lake of fire becomes the symbol of the second death.
At this juncture it will be helpful to recall that the judgment of the “sheep ” and the “kids ” (Matt.25:31-46) concerns itself with the eonian life, or, eonian chastening, of the nations. It is interesting to note that nations may have eonian life, or eonian chastening. “That there will be nations in the thousand years and in the new earth is abundantly clear from the various references to them in the Unveiling. It is the essence of Christ's reign that He shall have authority over the nations and that He shall share this with the overcomers in Israel (Rev-2:26; 12:5). Even in the last eon, when priesthood is no more, the glory and honor of the nations will be carried into the holy city, new Jerusalem (Rev.21:26). As they will not war among themselves and will be under the iron club of the great King, there is no reason why the nations which exist when the kingdom is set up should not continue throughout its course, and thus have eonian life or chastening, according as appointed unto them.
“The iron club is a feature of the millennium which we are prone to forget. The entrancing visions of peace and plenty, especially for the redeemed in Israel, captivate our minds and keep us from considering other aspects of that day. The revolt at its close comes as a shock to most of us the first time we seriously consider it, because we imagine that the conditions in Israel are common to all the peoples of the earth. In the sphere of government there is a great contrast, for all other nations become dependent vassals of the chosen people. They will be forced to obey the mandates of Jerusalem. Even Egypt, which, with Assyria and Israel, will be a blessing in the earth (Isa.19: 25), if she should not send up her quota to worship in Jerusalem will be stricken in a special way besides getting no rain (Zech. 14:18,19). And downpour will be withheld if any other of those who are left of the nations should fail to send their representatives (Zech.14:17).
“There will be no self-determination then, no independence, no empire with self-governing members. The kingdom is God's means of subjecting all to Himself, not of making His creatures independent of His power. It will be an unlimited despotism with Israel as the ruling nation. Not only Christ will exercise absolute power at its head, but He will delegate Israelites to rule over the other nations. They will shepherd them with an iron club, as vessels of pottery are being crushed (Rev.2:27). Is not this quite the equivalent of eonian chastening and fire? A government that has the forces of nature at its command does not need to use such crude weapons as our most modern implements of warfare. It will be much more effective to command the clouds to keep away. And at the last grand revolt no army is needed to oppose the horde led on by Satan. Fire simply descends and devours them.
“Satan has succeeded in deceiving the nations hitherto (Rev. 20:3). This does not signify that he has deceived every individual. It refers to the political divisions of the earth. He has misled the governments because he aspires to rule. Since, in the kingdom, Christ is determined to rule, Satan is bound in the abyss. When he is loosed he does not seek to deceive the nations near Jerusalem. Evidently they have come to a knowledge of Yahweh such as makes deception impracticable. So he goes to the four corners, those farthest from the center, where he finds a ready response. Is it not likely that these are the ones who have been crushed by the iron club, whose chastening is most severe, who have felt the fire of Yahweh's indignation on account of their treatment of Israel during the era of the nations? Would such not tend to drift away from the center of government and be found as far as possible from the city of the great King?
“At the same time would not the revolt at the end of the thousand years serve to solve another problem in connection with individual judgment, which follows immediately thereafter? In that eon salvation will be a very different matter from the present. Nationally speaking, all Israel will be saved (Rom.11: 26). If there should be a small remnant within it, they will be the unsaved, not the saved, as in the past. These will die (cf Isa.65:20). Nationally, it will be the first really 'Christian' nation. And the evangel of that day will be based on the authority of Christ over all the earth, and nations, as such, will be discipled and baptized (Matt.28:18-20). As the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh (Isa.11:9), it may be that the majority of the unsaved join the last revolt and die in the fire that descends from heaven and so find themselves among the dead who stand before the great white throne. In any case, none but the saved enter the new creation (2 Peter 3:7). All the rest are judged in the last great judgment, the great white throne, which deals with the acts of each individual.”
THOSE “OUTSIDE ” THE HOLY CITY
“Beginning in Revelation 22:6, through its close in verse 21, the visions of the Unveiling vanish. The new earth and the holy city are no longer before us. With John we return to Patmos. The scenes which held our amazed gaze dissolve into the dim and distant future. The first word that John hears is an assurance that he has not been dreaming. There has been no illusion. 'These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, commissions His messengers to show to His slaves what must occur swiftly. And lo! I am coming Swiftly! Happy is he who is keeping the sayings of the prophecy of this scroll' (Rev.22:6,7).
“From the time of John until the era of this prophecy things go on as heretofore. Those injuring still injure, the filthy are still filthy, the just are still righteous, and the holy are still hallowed (Rev.22:11). But when the next eon begins and the action of this unveiling commences, the injurious and the filthy will be judged. Once the kingdom has come, God's apparent neglect of human affairs comes to an end. There is no time thereafter when this passage may be applied. John has come back to Patmos. The messenger speaks of those who are, at that time, injuring and filthy and just and holy. It is a mixture of saints and sinners unknown after His advent, which cannot be tolerated once He puts His hand to the helm of human affairs....
“Thus we are reminded of the two classes whose destiny is brought before us in this prophecy. Let us remember that, at this time, John is not transported to the new earth, but is back at Patmos. Our Lord is speaking to the ecclesias. Hitherto the promises have been to the conquerors or 'overcomers.' Now He assures all who rinse their robes of a share in the tree of life and entrance into the holy city. Because it is said that the craven criminals enumerated here are 'outside', let us not imagine that these will encircle the sacred city of the future (Rev.22: 15). That would be a most distressing sight! The point is that those who are lawless and abominable at the time when the saints rinse their robes, shall have no right to life or happiness in the last eon. They will be in the second death. ”
Perhaps a parallel contemporary expression would be helpful to clarify this idiom. A young woman might well say to an unsuccessful but relentless suitor, one whom she rejects for another with whom she is deeply in love, “When I marry my beau, you will be on the outside looking in. ” No one imagines that she means to suggest that, after the marriage takes place, the poor fellow will stand outside her house and peer through the windows.
It must be remembered that the Lord is speaking here, from the vantage point of Patmos, of those who are “outsiders, ” instead of “insiders, ” with regard to a blessing which will only be enjoyed by the latter class. Though, in the nature of the case, the entire nation of Israel is included in these considerations, those directly in view are those of the seven Israelitish ecclesias of Asia, to whom the Lord's own words here (as well as all of John's observations written in this scroll of the Unveiling) are sent (Rev.1:11,12).
Furthermore, the Greek is not actually “outside ” (exothen, OUT-PLACE),but simply “out ” (exo, OUT; note the lightface in the CV, “outside ”). Indeed, even if the reading were exothen (“outside") instead of exo (“out ”), that would be no indication that these sinners would be living on the new earth even though beyond the boundaries of the holy city, but simply that they would not be included in the blessing of the righteous. That is, whatever the lot appointed to these lawless ones may be, it is one that is “outside ” (i.e., apart from or not included within) the circle of the upright, those who repent and endure in works of righteousness.
Exothen speaks of a certain place, one that is not within but outside of another place or sphere, for example “the court outside of the temple ” (Rev.11:2). Yet exo (OUT)simply speaks of that which, in some sense, is “out ” (inasmuch as it is not “in ”). While exo (“out[side] ”) may be used where the situation at hand happens to be that of “adjacent to (though not in), ” this is not its meaning. An example of such a usage of exo is, “Whosoever should not be receiving you, nor yet be hearing your words, coming out [side] of that house or city or village, shake off the dust from your feet ” (Matt.10:14). The word itself simply means “not within, ” whether or not, in the nature of the case, that which is thus excluded should find itself adjacent to another certain object.
In the case of Revelation 22:14,15, those who are lawless and abominable at the time when the saints rinse their robes will have no license to the log of life or to entrance into the city. They will be “left out, ” or exempted from the blessings of the tree of life and the holy city. This passage simply does not address where they will be, but only where they will not be. While it is evident that they will not be included in this sphere of blessing, it by no means follows from this that they will be living somewhere outside the city on the new earth! From this passage itself, we could have no idea what their allotment will be, for it only informs us as to what their allotment will not be. Yet since we have learned from other passages and considerations that “their part is in the lake burning with fire and sulphur, which is the second death ” (Rev. 21:8) and that the second death entails the absence of life, we are certain that in that day they will not be living outside the city, dwelling on the new earth or anywhere else.
For that matter, no one, anywhere on the new earth, among those who will be dwelling there, will be doing such unclean acts as these (those of Revelation 22:15). For we have before us an eon in which righteousness is dwelling, in which humanity is gloriously united to God, in which there will be no mourning, or clamor, or misery—all of which would be perfectly impossible were the new earth to be teeming with curs and enchanters, paramours, murderers, and idolaters, besides untold individuals fondling and fabricating falsehood.
PAYMENT ACCORDING TO ACTS
Romans 2:6 simply states (in reference to “the day of indignation and revelation of the just judgment of God ”) that in that day God “will be paying each [of those who are present] in accord with his acts. ”
Now if I were an exceedingly wealthy businessman who employed a large staff of salesmen, men who were filled with pride and sated with self-confidence, I might well purpose to humble them by declaring that if they should meet a certain sales quota, I would pay them a great sum. Indeed, due to my vast wealth, I would be well able to do so should they ever meet my stringent requirements. Because of their high opinion of themselves and remarkable degree of confidence in the flesh, they would consider my requirements quite achievable, even if they should recognize them as far from easy. But I, knowing their true limitations, would know that they were all doomed to failure, no matter how highly they thought of themselves.
Caring very deeply for each one of them, however, and in my private life being a great philanthropic (even though I had never made myself known as such to my workers, all of whom considered me a harsh man), all the while my actual plans, in due time, were to give each one of them—strictly as a favor—a far greater sum than I had promised to pay them, should they meet my requirements. Because of my own benevolence, this would eventually be the possession of each one—no matter how poor a salesman he might be. But first I would deal with their arrogance.
God acts in a very similar way to this benefactor, when declaring, through the apostle Paul, that in the day of judging He will pay each one in accord with his acts, even paying such a great compensation as “life eonian ” to any of mankind “who by endurance in good acts [should be] seeking glory and honor and incorruption ” (Rom.2:7).
The thought is by no means merely that those who endure (literally, “those who are enduring”) in good acts will receive such a payment, even though no mortal has ever so endured. The best of men fail to endure in good acts, for even they lapse into sin on many occasions. The thought expressed by the words “by endurance in good acts ” (“according-to UNDER-REMAINing OF-ACT GOOD ”) is a secondary one. The main point is that God declares that He will pay life eonian “to those, indeed, who...are seeking glory and honor and incorruption ” (Rom.2:7).
The purpose of this entire section of Romans (from 1:18 to 3:20) is to make evident man's need for a Saviour—not to provide those who stupidly imagine that they themselves have no need of a physician (cp Matt.9:12) with a way to get glory for themselves.
The fact of relative human goodness which is enjoyed by some- -solely because of God's grace upon them—is not in view. The point is that, “by works of law, no flesh at all shall be justified in [God's] sight ” (Rom.3:20).
“We previously charge both Jews and Greeks to be all under sin, according as it is written, that 'Not one is just'—not even one. Not one is understanding. Not one is seeking out God ” (Rom.3:9-11).
“All avoid Him: at the same time they were useless.
Not one is doing kindness: there is not even one!
“A sepulcher opened is their throat.
With their tongues they defraud.
“The venom of asps is under their lips.
“Whose mouth with imprecation and bitterness is crammed.
“Sharp are their feet to shed blood.
“Bruises and wretchedness are in their ways,
And the way of peace they do not know.
“There is no fear of God in front of their eyes ”
These words afford us an accurate picture of man in himself, a true display of the old humanity apart from divine grace. “Except the Lord of hosts conserved us a seed, as Sodom would we become, and to Gomorrah would we be likened ” (Rom.9:29; cp Rom.11:5). Let no one, then, be boasting in himself, but in God, his Saviour.
Those who are unjust—which in this sense includes us all— who lack understanding and fail to seek God, who avoid Him and are useless, can hardly qualify for a place among those who endure in good acts. To do good, such as to act in kindness, is to act justly, not unjustly. Such unjust ones as these—which includes all mankind in themselves—certainly have no place among those who are “seeking glory and honor and incorruption ” (Rom.2:7). Rather, they are those who are “effecting evil ” (Rom.2:9).
The subject at hand in Romans 2:3-16 is the day of the just judgment of God. Paul is hardly speaking of some few who may seek to distance themselves from vice out of a quest for fleshly glory and honor, but of those who actually endure in good acts while seeking “glory and honor and incorruption ” in the sight of God.
It is impossible to be seeking glory and honor and incorruption in God's sight apart from first recognizing and subsequently glorifying and thanking Him as God, out of Whom, through Whom, and for Whom is all (Rom.11:36). Very few even of God's people do this, and then only quite imperfectly. Unbelievers by no means do so. Yet it is the unbeliever who is in view in Romans 2:7.
Those who, in fact, seek their own glory and honor— unbelieving and self-righteous religionists, moralists, and humanists, ones who fancy themselves independent of God and in need of little or no saving grace—are completely disqualified for this proposed payment, even if many of their acts, in themselves, should be good. Indeed, they would be among the first to disqualify themselves for it.
 A. E. Knoch, UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, vol.20, pp.373,376,378.
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