Robert Jeffress - Final Judgement - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. People enjoy hearing stories about God's love and forgiveness, and while it's true that he provides a means for our salvation, we can't fully appreciate God's mercy until we fully revere his holiness. The fact is, while God will forgive those who ask for it, he will also judge those who reject his gift of salvation. And today we're going to tackle a sobering passage in revelation chapter 20 that describes the future judgment of all unbelievers. My message is titled "Final Judgment". On today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Warren Wiersbe tells the story about a frontier town in which a wagon being pulled along by a horse suddenly bolted away as the horse began to run, carrying the wagon that in turn had a small boy in it. A young man, seeing the danger the young child was in, suddenly got on a horse and put his own life at risk to rescue the little boy. That little boy grew up to be a ruthless criminal. And one day he found himself standing before a judge, awaiting being sentenced for a murder he had committed. And as the young criminal looked up at the judge, he recognized the judge as the man who had saved his life many years earlier.
And so he made a plea for mercy to the judge based on what the judge had done for him many years earlier. But the judge silenced the plea of mercy with these words. He looked at the young criminal and he said, "Son, many years ago, I was your Savior. But today, I am your judge. And therefore I sentence you to be hanged". More than 2.000 years ago, Jesus Christ came to be our Savior. He lived a humiliating life, he died an excruciating death, in order to provide for us the forgiveness of our sins. But the Bible says one day Jesus Christ is coming back to earth not as the Savior of the world but as the judge of the world. And it's that second coming of Christ, when he comes to judge all unbelievers, that we're going to look at today. It is a judgment that takes place at an event we often call the Great White Throne judgment.
If you have your Bibles, turn to Revelation 20. Revelation 20. Let me remind you where we are in our study of Bible prophecy. We've looked at the next great event that is to happen, that is the rapture of the church in which Christians are called up to meet the Lord in the air, followed by the seven-year time of tribulation in which God pours out his wrath on unbelievers in the earth. And of course the climax of that seven-year tribulation is the Battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Jesus Christ when we, who belong to Christ, return with Christ to set up his kingdom upon the earth.
There are also judgments, Matthew 25, in which the Lord Jesus Christ will judge the sheep and the goats, he will separate believers from unbelievers. Many people will survive the Great Tribulation, both believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers are fled away, they are taken away into judgment. Believers enter into this 1.000-year rule of Christ. And it's during that 1.000-year rule of Christ that we are with Christ and we judge with Christ the earth, and not only are we judging, so will be the 12 apostles, and so will be the believing Jews. But there is another group that John sees who are present during that millennial time, and he describes them in verses 4 to 6 of Revelation 20.
"And I saw thrones, and they that sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the Word of God. And those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the Mark upon their forehead and upon their hand, and they came to life and the reigned with Christ for a 1.000 years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1.000 years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a 1.000 years".
This phrase, the first resurrection, introduces us to a concept that we have to understand if we're going to understand the end times, and it's the concept of two resurrections. Now that word resurrection comes from the Greek word anastasis. It's a word that is used 40 times in the Greek New Testament and it always refers to the raising of a person's physical body. You see, the Bible says when we as Christians die, no matter when it is, our spirits, the essence of who we really are, goes immediately into the presence of Jesus.
"To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord," 2 Corinthians 5:8. Likewise, when a non-Christian dies his spirit goes to a place called hades. We'll look at it in a couple of weeks. That is the waiting place of the unsaved dead. It is a place of torment. When we as Christians die, our spirit goes to heaven, our bodies are left behind in the grave. When the non-Christian dies, his spirit goes to hades, his body is left behind in the grave. But both the bodies of Christians and non-Christians will be raised at some future time. The body of Christians will be raised so that we can experience everlasting blessing. The body of non-Christians will be resurrected so that they can experience everlasting judgment. These are the two resurrections. The first resurrection is for eternal life. The second resurrection is for eternal death. That's why John says, "Blessed is he who has a part in the first resurrection, because over him the second death has no power".
Now let's look at each of these resurrections in more detail. I have it there on your outline. The first resurrection is called, very creatively, the first resurrection. That makes sense, doesn't it? The first resurrection is the first resurrection. It is the resurrection of all Christians. But here's the concept you need to understand. The first resurrection doesn't happen all at the same time. The first resurrection happens at four different times in history. That is, every Christian goes immediately into the presence of Christ when he dies, but his body is raised at a particular time in history, and it's not the same for all believers.
The best way to understand that is through a concept you moms understand or remember, and it's the concept of a carpool. You know what a carpool is. You arrange with other parents, if you're the designated carpool driver, that you go around and pick up the little urchins at different houses, and you know, your car, the population gets bigger and bigger and bigger at each pick-up point, until you deposit all of them at one location. The soccer field or school. That is a carpool. I want you to think of the first resurrection as a heavenly carpool, okay? That different Christians are picked up at different points in history, that is their bodies are raised up and changed into the resurrection body. Where do we find that? Hold your place here and turn over to 1 Corinthians 15.
Remember this is the great resurrection chapter of the Bible and in the first 19 verses Paul explains the truth of Christ's resurrection. From history, why we know, Christ was physically raised from the dead. And interestingly, some of the Corinthians, they accepted the fact that Christ was raised from the dead, but they didn't believe that you and I would be raised in the same way. But Paul corrects their understanding, look at 1 Corinthians 15:20. "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, he is the first fruits of those who are asleep".
Now that verse is meaningless to most of us because we don't have a Jewish background. We don't understand what the term first fruits means. But in the Israeli culture, in the Old Testament, remember it was an agricultural community, when they would harvest crops, when the time of the harvest came, before farmers would harvest the entire crop, they would harvest a sampling of it and they would bring that sample to the priest and offer it as an offering. It was called the offering of the first fruits. Leviticus 23:10.
Now this sample harvest wasn't all the harvest. It was just a sample of the a greatest harvest that was yet to come. And what Paul is saying is as magnificent as the resurrection of Jesus Christ was, it's not the whole story. Jesus Christ was just the first of many who would be raised from the dead. He was the first fruits, he was the sample of a greater resurrection yet to come. Look at verses 22 and 23 of 1 Corinthians 15. "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will shall be made alive". It's not just Christ who was raised from the dead, but every follower of Christ will also be dead from the dead.
Verse 23, "But each in his own order". Translation: but everybody has to wait their turn. That's what he's saying. We're all gonna be raised, but each according to a specific order. Now underline that word order. It's the Greek word tagma, t-a-g-m-a. And it's a word that refers to a military parade. How many of you have ever seen a military parade before? Okay, this is what he's alluding to, a military parade. Just imagine a parade that is going down a long stretch of a boulevard, with everybody watching, and at different points along the parade different corps of the military fall into their place in the parade. And as the parade continues, it gets larger and larger and larger.
Now that is the word picture Paul is painting here. Think of the resurrection, if you don't like the idea of a carpool, think of it as a heavenly resurrection parade. Who's in that parade? Well, it tells us in verse 23. He says in verse 23, first of all in that order is Christ, the first fruits. Now I've given you a chart on your outline to help you understand this. I've helped you understand the four pick-up points in that military parade or heavenly carpool in which different Christians throughout history are going to join in with their resurrected bodies. First of all, Christ, the first fruits. He's the leader of the parade. He's the guy out front, he is the one leading the parade. That's what Ephesians 4:8 says. "When he ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives. And he gave gifts to men". Christ is at the head of that military parade.
Now, I don't wanna get off into the weeds here, but did you know Christ was not the only one who was raised at that time? In Matthew 27:52-53, when Christ died that Friday afternoon, some of the tombs were opened, and some people were actually raised from the dead at that time. They didn't appear until after the resurrection, make themselves known in Jerusalem. So Christ actually had several people around him. The first fruits, the harvest of the resurrection. Following the Lord Jesus Christ, notice the next group in the parade route that will receive their resurrection body. "After that," verse 23, "Those who belong to Christ at his coming".
Now we saw that word coming, parousia in Greek, is a word that is used both to refer to the rapture and seven years later to the second coming of Christ. So when he says some will receive the resurrection bodies at his coming, is Paul talking about the rapture or the second coming? Well, actually, he's talking about both. That next group after Jesus to receive their resurrection body will be you and i, the church, and we get our bodies at the rapture.
1 Thessalonians 4. "And we who are alive and remain shall we called up together to meet the Lord in the air". The dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive and remain should be called up together to meet the Lord in the air. 1 Corinthians 15 says at that time we will all be changed in a moment in the twinkling of an eye. We get our resurrection bodies at the rapture. But also, it refers to another group, thirdly, it says 1c on your chart there, those who will receive their resurrection bodies at the second coming of Christ. There's a third group who receives their resurrection bodies. It is those who belong to Christ at his second coming. Who would that be?
John just talked about it in Revelation 24. It is the souls of those who were martyred during the tribulation. That group of Christians who were killed for their faith, they would not receive the mark, of course their soul immediately went to heaven, but John says, "I saw them come to life at that time". That is they received their resurrection bodies at the beginning of the millennium when Christ returns. Not only that, Daniel 12:1-2 says the Old Testament saints will receive their bodies. Adam and Eve and Jonah and Esther and David, all will receive their resurrection bodies. They're with Christ now but they'll receive they resurrection bodies at the second coming. And then there's one final group, the fourth pick-up point in the resurrection parade. Then comes the end when he delivers up the kingdom. That is the end of the millennium, the 1.000-year reign of Christ.
There is one final group to receive their resurrection bodies. Who are these people? It will be those Christians who have gone into the 1.000-year of Christ in their natural bodies. We'll talk about that more in a moment. Not every Christian will be slaughtered during the tribulation. Some will survive. They will enter the millennium in their natural bodies. They will give birth to other people during the millennium, and those children will die during the millennium. They'll live longer than they do but they will die. They'll receive their resurrection bodies at the end of the millennium. So do you get the concept? The first resurrection doesn't happen at a single point in time. Instead, it's a reference to all believers who all will receive their resurrection bodies but at various points in history.
John says, "Blessed is the person who is a part of this military parade, this heavenly carpool, the first resurrection. Over him, the second death has no power". And then notice in Revelation 25 it says, "The rest of the dead didn't come to life until the 1.000 years were completed". Who are the rest of the dead? It is the unsaved, who will be resurrected. And that leads to what is on your chart, number two, the second resurrection. It's referred to in Revelation 20:13. "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hades gave up the dead which were in them". Unlike the first resurrection that takes place over a period of time, the second resurrection of the unsaved occurs all at the same point. It happens after the 1.000-year reign of Christ. And the purpose of the second resurrection is to raise the bodies of all unbelievers so they can experience the final judgment we're talking about today, the Great White Throne judgment.
However, John says before that final judgment one last thing has to occur, and he describes it in verses 7-9. One evening, I was awakened in the middle of the night by the chirping sound of a cricket, and I decided I'd try to sleep through it. But after about 20 minutes of tossing and turning, I realized I could not sleep through it. So I threw off the covers, got out of bed. I could tell it was coming from the bathroom. Turned on the light in the bathroom and around our bathtub there were these planters with there fake flowers in them. And as I got closer and closer, the cricket sound got louder and louder, and finally I saw one of those fake plants start to move. We grow big crickets in Texas, those of you who are wondering about that. But it actually started to move a little bit.
So I jumped into the bathtub, I yanked that fake plant out, and there was that cricket scrambling around for its life. I reached down, grabbed it by its hind leg, and I took over and was about to deposit it into the watery grave of the commode, when suddenly I was overwhelmed with compassion. I thought, you poor little cricket. You can't help yourself. I'm willing to go through the rest of the night sleepless in order to allow you to chirp away, and I let that cricket go. Do you think I did that? Of course not. With great glee I dropped it into the water below and I flushed it away into all eternity. Now, that incident is why I have such a hard time understanding Revelation 20:7-9 'cause the Bible says at the beginning of the millennium God grabs hold of Satan, he bounds him for a 1.000 years. And for 1.000 years the earth experiences what God intended this world to be, without Satan's presence.
So what happens after the 1.000 years? This just absolutely blows my mind. God chooses to let Satan go, instead of dropping him into the lake of fire. Notice the reality of Satan being released at the end of the 1.000 years. Revelation 20:7, "And when the 1.000 years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and he will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war. The number of them is like the sand of the seashore". That is, those who are deceived into making war against God. "And they," that is, the opponents of God, verse nine, "Came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and of the beloved city," that is Jerusalem, "And fire came down from heaven and devoured them".
What is the purpose of Satan's release? Why does God choose to let him go? Well, it says in the text here, in order that he might deceive the nations. That is, in spite of the previous 1.000 years of the perfect rule of Jesus on the throne at Jerusalem, some people at the final moment, when given the chance, will choose to follow Satan. Now of course that brings up a number of questions. Who are these people who decide, who have survived the millennium, who have lived under the perfect reign of Christ, who are these people that would choose to follow after Satan? Is it possible that you and i, having trusted in Christ as our Savior, could at the last moment be deceived and lost forever? And why does it say that God must release Satan for a little while?
Well, let's identify those who are deceived by Satan's release. Let's make something very, very clear. It is impossible for somebody who is a genuine Christian to ever be lost. John 10:28, Jesus said, "I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish. No man shall snatch them out of my hands". When God gives you eternal life, it's eternal. If salvation can be lost, then it's not eternal. God is the author, Hebrew says, of eternal salvation. In Romans 11:29, Paul said, "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable". God does not rescind his offer of eternal life. So these are not genuine Christians who are deceived by Satan.