Revelation 20: Heaven and Hell

"And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:15

Opening prayer: Father, heaven sounds very far away from where we are today. Open our hearts and minds to see Your vision for our future.

This is a continuation of our series on the Revelation of Jesus the Messiah. If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to study our previous lessons in this series:
Rev. 1: The Revelation of Jesus
Rev. 2-3: I Know You!
Rev. 4-5: Preview of Heaven
Rev. Study: Prophecies of Daniel
Rev. Study: Raptures and Resurrections
Rev. Study: Ezekiel's War
Rev. 6: Overview of the Tribulation
Rev. 7: Some Special People
Rev. 8-9: Danger! Rough Road Ahead!
Rev. 10-11: Seven Thunders; Two Witnesses
Rev. 12: The Woman and The Dragon
Rev. 13: The Last-Days Dictator
Rev. 14: The Last Train for Glory
Rev. 15-16: The Last Plagues
Rev. 17-18: Who IS That Woman?
Rev. 19A: A Mysterious Marriage
Rev. Study: The Day of the Lord
Rev. 19B: Doomsday

Starting Over

At this point in the Book of Revelation, you can take a deep breath and start to relax. The Great Tribulation is over. The Lord Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, has returned to earth to slay the fools assembled at Armageddon. Now He will establish His Kingdom.

God's first order of business will be to evict the previous world ruler, in Revelation 20 verses 1-3:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

At last! The deceiver will be imprisoned. For 1,000 years, the human race will enjoy freedom from Satan's deceptions. However, we will still have human misconceptions and deceptions to cope with.

Please note that the passage doesn't specify whether all the other fallen angels will also be imprisoned. But when Jesus came near the demon-possessed man, the demons referred to "our time" and to a place of torment. Jesus described this place of torment in Matthew 25:41:

Then He will also say to those on the left hand, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels..."

"Everlasting fire" is a reference to the Lake of Fire, described later in this lesson. The other fallen angels will be sentenced to the Lake of Fire eventually. Apparently God doesn't feel the subject is worth much detail, but it's reasonable to infer that the fallen angels will be imprisoned during the Milennium, either in the Pit with their boss or in the Lake of Fire.

According to Isaiah 14:7-17, Satan's arrival in the Pit will cause quite a stir:

The whole earth is at rest and quiet; They break forth into singing. 8 Indeed the cypress trees rejoice over you, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, 'Since you were cut down, no woodsman has come up against us.'
9 "Hell from beneath is excited about you, to meet you at your coming; it stirs up the dead for you, all the chief ones of the earth. It has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. 10 They all shall speak and say to you: 'Have you also become as weak as we? Have you become like us? 11 Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your stringed instruments. The maggot is spread under you, and worms cover you.'
12 "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! 13 For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' 15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. 16 "Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: 'Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, 17 Who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of his prisoners?'

Whether you call it Hell or Sheol or the Bottomless Pit, Hell is a real place. Real people go there and stay there. They retain conscious awareness, and will someday enjoy taunting the devil as he gets chained in "the lowest depths of the Pit."

Where is this "Bottomless Pit?"

It's under your feet.

Imagine a shaft drilled through the diameter of the earth. If you fell into the opening at one end, you would accelerate toward the center, overshoot, and almost make it to the opening at the other end... before falling back. Before long, you would be suspended in the center, basking in the heat of the earth's core. At the center, everywhere else is up. There is no bottom. Welcome to the Bottomless Pit.

If you were somehow able to maintain consciousness during your plunge, you might observe millions of demons penned up in God's prison camp. And lots of departed souls whose names and faces you'd recognize. This is Hell #1.

Is there another Hell?

Yes. In the previous lesson, on Doomsday, we saw the Last-Days' Dictator and the False Prophet captured alive and imprisoned in some place called "the Lake of Fire." As far as we know, these two characters (and the various demons inhabiting and empowering them) will be the first inhabitants of the place. The Lake of Fire is Hell #2.

Where is the entry shaft to the Pit?

Nobody on this side knows for sure. But the demonic creatures empowering the Last-Days' Dictator are pictured as a beast rising up out of the sea in Revelation 13:1. Likewise, Daniel chapter 7 depicts four demonic creatures coming up out of the sea. This suggests that the entry portal is underwater somewhere. (Hint: Limit your undersea exploring to shallow waters until the Lord returns.)

But why does God put the devil in the Pit instead of the Lake of Fire?

Several reasons come to mind, and all of them are conjecture:

But why will the devil be released for awhile?

We'll discuss that issue in a few minutes, as we study other verses later in this chapter.

Let's continue in Revelation 20, with verses 4-6:

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

This passage is very short: just three verses describe one thousand years of future history. (I need more words than that to describe a trip to the grocery store.) To fully understand these verses we must look to other passages of Scripture.

The clearest parallel is in Daniel 7, verses 9-12:

"I watched till thrones were put in place, And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire; 10 A fiery stream issued And came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, And the books were opened. 11 "I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. 12 "As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

On the Day of the Lord, the angels will set up thrones in a special seating arrangement. God Himself will take His throne, then "the court was seated" on the other thrones.

So who is "the court" that will sit on the other thrones?

The Bible doesn't leave much room for conjecture. It cannot be angels; they are never pictured as sitting on thrones. Nor will any of the lower animals (dogs, pigs, porpoises, chickens) sit on thrones. That leaves just one choice: resurrected human beings. But which ones?

Jesus Himself said that His followers would be given thrones, in Luke 22:29-30:

"And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 "that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

We see a similar promise in Matthew 19 verse 28:

So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

This is consistent with the promise that Jesus makes in Revelation 2, verses 26-27:

26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations — 27‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ — as I also have received from My Father. (NKJV)

Likewise we saw some special thrones in Revelation 4 verse 4:

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.

Revelation 4:4 apparently shows the 12 thrones of the followers of Jesus, plus 12 thrones corresponding to the 12 tribes of Israel. As we saw in our study of Revelation 4-5, the best explanation is that the 24 elders represent ALL the redeemed saints, including those before the coming of Messiah.

To summarize, the redeemed of Israel and the redeemed followers of Jesus will return to earth with Jesus and be seated on thrones. These may be physical thrones or just symbolic of our positions of authority under our Lord.

I hope you noticed an odd detail in the second half of Revelation 20 verse 4:

...Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

This is a very limited resurrection. These resurrected ones are the fortunate souls who woke up to the truth of the Gospel just in time. They were not alive and awake and walking with the Lord soon enough to participate in any of the rapture events described in the lesson Raptures and Resurrections. These brothers and sisters will pay dearly for their faith, but the Lord will reward them and exalt them in a special way.

This passage is yet another confirmation that the Lord will have multiple rapture events before and during the 7-year tribulation period. All the other categories of saints (Old Testament saints, the Church of Jesus Christ, the 144,000, the "numberless multitude," and all others except the VERY last martyrs) are not mentioned. The logical explanation is that all the other saints (except the VERY last martyrs) will be airlifted to safety by the Lord before the end of the Great Tribulation.

The bad news is that these saints will suffer greatly to qualify for their resurrection. The good news is that even though they're latecomers, God will give them special treatment and allow them to participate in the 1,000-year Milennium period.

Who else will be allowed to participate in the Milennium?

There will be two very different types of people entering the Milennium. If you are already a believer in Jesus, then you and I will enter in our glorious resurrection bodies. Likewise, all the people who were converted and raptured during the tribulation period will be there in resurrection bodies, as will the last martyrs just described.

What some folks forget is that the survivors of the Great Tribulation will enter the Milennium in their fleshly bodies. These survivors will marry, bear children, live long lives and eventually die.

The Milennium is not a fairy tale. We will NOT all live happily ever after. There will be peace and prosperity, but there will also be an undercurrent of discontent among the "mortals." Remember: Satan will be bound, but ordinary human pride and stupidity will be fully operational.

The resurrected saints will rule and reign with Jesus. Everyone else will be under our authority. Everyone else will need to submit to the Lordship of Jesus and be born again (just like we did) if they want a chance for eternal life after the 1,000 years are completed.

The world will be peaceful, but not everybody will be happy. Many of the "mortals" will resent the division of labor and authority. After a few hundred years, the children of the last survivors of the Great Tribulation will have died. You can easily predict what the next couple of generations will be like. They will grow up and be outwardly obedient, because of the provable consequences of disobedience. But they will stew in their resentment, envious of what you and I will have and ignorant of what our crowns really cost us.

Many will doubt the Gospel message. They will not believe that human nature is corrupt, prideful, disobedient and intrinsically evil. They will not believe that man needs to be born again. They will not believe that the "ancient" world (today, as you read this) was as bad as the history books will tell them. They will not believe than human government is incapable of lasting peace. They will not believe stories about the devil and his deceptions.

Like the devil before them, they will look around at the peace and prosperity of their world and convince themselves that THEY deserve more of the glory. They will be easy prey for the devil when he's finally released.

Now a very difficult passage to understand, Revelation 20 verses 7-10:

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. 9 They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. 10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Hey, teacher! Is that FAIR that God turns the devil loose to deceive people?

Actually, it's more than fair. God will be merciful to hundreds of millions of "ignorant" people and allow them to survive into the Milennium. God will give them access to the perfect truth of the Gospel, embodied in His Son Jesus. Jesus Himself will be visible and observable. Everyone will hear the undistorted message of truth and see the Resurrected Messiah. However, many will refuse to believe.

God's love for us compels Him to give every person the opportunity to learn the truth and believe it. God's righteousness compels Him to hold us accountable for whatever Gospel light we have received. God's righteousness also compels Him to finally draw the line and say that rebellion will no longer be tolerated beyond H-E-R-E.

A thousand years is plenty of time for even flesh-natured humans to figure it out. And by that time they will have had a total of three thousand years of Scriptural warning that the devil will be coming after them.

Three thousand years is a reasonable advance warning. There will be no shortage of head knowledge. The only rebels will be those who refuse to submit their hearts to the Lord. Don't waste any energy feeling sorry for them.

Let's conclude with Revelation 20 verses 11-15:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

No excuses

Verse 11 above is a frightening passage:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

Can you picture Him? No, you can't -- and thank you for honestly admitting that.

Just the presence of His unveiled face will be enough to make all of the present universe flee somewhere: "...from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away." Perhaps they will dissolve into nothingness as implied by the second half of verse 11: "And there was found no place for them." However, other passages imply that the earth will be reshaped and renewed rather than completely destroyed.

In either case, this present earth, worshipped as "Mother" by so many misguided souls in our present generation, will be changed before the face of God. So also will "the heaven" -- either the present (polluted) atmosphere of earth or perhaps ALL the zillions of stars in the universe. Which will it be? It really won't matter. We won't need any of that stuff by this point.

You and I are pretty impressed by this earth, with its beautiful lakes and streams and beaches. But as soon as God takes His throne, *POOF!* they're history.

Speaking of history...

In verse 12, John describes "...the dead, small and great, standing before God." Every unresurrected person from Cain onward will be there: Nimrod, Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and a host of "famous" entertainers. Plus every unrepentant petty tyrant, abusive husband and neighborhood bully since time began.

God will be seated. The "dead" will be standing, shivering, before His face. Those mortals who get born-again during the Milennium period will have their names written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and they will join us in Eternity, in the New Earth. Everyone else will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

The Book of Life

Your life boils down to this: The Book of Life or the Lake of Fire.

Forget all the other stuff that pushes in on you and demands time and attention. All that other stuff is going to burn or rust. Your eternal future is more precious than gold or silver or the latest Mercedes Benz.

It's not too late. If you can still read this, you still have the capacity to make the right choice. You can be on the winning side. Or you can be buzzard bait. God will respect your choice, and give you whichever you want.

But I'm too much of a sinner. I already KNOW I can't be good enough to deserve heaven.

Then you've already taken the first step, realizing that nobody is perfect. Because God isn't looking for perfect people. Just repentant and teachable people. He just wants His adopted children (you and me!) to love Him, respect Him, and spend quality time with Him. He wants us to approach Him through faith in the merits of His Only Begotten Son's sacrifice on the cross. He wants to give us a heart transplant -- the Holy Spirit living inside our hearts, giving us a new nature and eternal life. This is The Big Loophole -- how we can get to heaven even though we don't deserve it.

So how do I take advantage of The Big Loophole and get heaven as a free gift?

Just a few simple steps:

But what if I already prayed that prayer some time ago?

Then walk in it. Live it. Feed your new nature with Scripture, prayer and regular attendance in local worship services. Read the Bible, paying special attention to the words of Jesus. Aggressively seek the Lord's presence in prayer, and seek to know Him as intimately as you know your own loved ones. Share your faith with the hopeless souls still walking in darkness. Give to the Lord's work -- not to gain a specific reward or because God needs the money, but because you need to exercise the faith of giving.

Above all, remember that you have a new nature that requires care and feeding, like any newborn. Get involved in a local church ministry where people love God with all their heart and teach the truth of Scripture without the burden of denominational doctrine and traditions.

If you would like to ask further questions or discuss this in more detail, please feel free to send me an e-mail by clicking the "mail-to" link below. Explain your concerns and we'll respond as quickly as we can (assuming the first rapture event hasn't already happened).

Closing Prayer: Lord, I know that time is short and that You will soon come to establish Your Kingdom on this earth. Help me to overcome my present problems and give me renewed passion for the life of faith, I pray, Amen.

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