We have taken a closer look at the court of Christ, seeing on what basis believers would be acquitted and on what basis non-believers would be condemned. We have seen that the same Jesus who brought his church, his body, out from the nation of Israel, into the open to visibly lead and shepherd her, ascended in a new glorified body to the right hand of the Father. We have seen what our bodies would be like and we have seen the certainty with which our Savior has worked for us a salvation, a payment-in-full receipt of our debt. We have seen that no amount of affliction, sufferings, or even torture and death can derail our future with Christ our Lord.
In the following five verses, John relates to us the events surrounding and after the court of Christ, which we have just studied.
John says that the throne he saw was ‘great,’ which means its vision indicates the importance and immensity of the One who was seated on it. It is a white throne reflecting the glory and purity of God. It is interesting to note that John does not say who sits on the throne, but refers only the “and him who was seated” on it. We may conclude that this vision was so overwhelming that words could not describe the glorious presence of God, and that he could only refer to God indirectly.
The description of the earth and sky fleeing from his presence, having nowhere to go, is indicative of the majesty and glory of God. We read about the same thing in the Psalms.
Psalm 114:1-8 When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, 2Judah became God's sanctuary, Israel his dominion. 3The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back. 4The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs. 5Why was it, O sea, that you fled, O Jordan, that you turned back? 6You mountains, that you skipped like rams, you hills, like lambs? 7Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob 8who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.
Creation is not destroyed here as Satan was destroyed, but driven out from where a new creation would follow. The apostle Peter foretold this in his second epistle.
II Peter 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
Isaiah 51:6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.
We clearly see the announcement of the destruction followed by the appearance of the new world.
Every living being that ever lived appeared before the throne to hear the judgment as the books were opened. We see here that there two types of books, the one type referred to as the “books” and the second type, only the “book,” which is the book of life.
Then everyone, the dead, were judged according to what they had done, as all their thoughts and deeds were recorded in these books. The use of books is indicative of the justness of the judgment since everything has been journalized as it happened and now brought into the open as testimony. Both elect and reprobate will hear their deeds and their thoughts and Christ’s judgment in accordance with it. Here are some passages relating to the judgment.
Daniel 7:9, 10 "As I looked, "thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.
Job 34:11 He repays a man for what he has done; he brings upon him what his conduct deserves.
Psalm 62:12 And that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.
Proverbs 24:29 Do not say, "I'll do to him as he has done to me; I'll pay that man back for what he did."
Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Jeremiah 17:10 "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."
Jeremiah 32:19 Great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve.
Isaiah 3:10, 11 Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. 11Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done.
Daniel 12:1 "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book--will be delivered.
Romans 2:6 God "will give to each person according to what he has done."
Romans 14:10, 12 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. 12So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
I Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
II Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
While all people would be terrified at the thought of having all their hidden secrets revealed before all, especially before those who curse God and scoff at believers, the event has different consequences for believers than it has for unbelievers.
For unbelievers it is a terrifying moment, as they realize that these books contain testimony that would condemn them; even their good and moral works would count against them, as the purpose for doing good was their own glory and not love for God.
For believers, it is a glorious moment since all the atrocities that these books testify to, have been removed by Christ’s merits on the cross. The shame that ought to have resulted from hearing all the egregious deeds and thoughts that they committed while being Christians and believers have disappeared, having already been suffered by Christ on the cross. At every announcement of misdeeds and crimes, there are hallelujahs glorifying Christ the Lord. The measure of their faith, allowing them to have remained faithful to the gospel, is contrasted with the nature of their crimes, acquitting them.
No power withstands the call to return the dead. All those who ever lived will rise, and although we cannot comprehend the logistics of such a mass gathering, we know that it happens after this life and the natural world’s physics and dynamics do not count any longer.
When Christ, who holds the keys to death and Hades, calls, the masses rise from their places of rest, whether it be the ocean, fire, ashes, or graves, they all rise to face Christ’s judgment.
Revelation 1:18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Death is considered the last enemy, the one who ruled because of sin, and who was the wages for sin, is now treated the same way as Satan was, being thrown into the lake of fire. Although John sees death as an entity, it is the reality of death, which violently entered the world stage in the Garden of Eden after the fall, that is now destroyed, fulfilling God’s promise that Christ would crush the serpent’s head and destroy death.
The alliance that man has set up between himself and Satan, destroying his alliance with God, has been restored. The enmity that God sat between the seed of the woman and the seed of the devil has matured and broke the alliance with Satan, causing him to lose his grip on the elect forever. First, on the cross, sealing Satan in the Abyss, and now finally, destroying all that caused separation between God and his people.
The first death leads to the grave while the second death, the lake of fire, leads to eternal condemnation. The first death is but a mere passage for believers, while the horror of destruction and decay bites the unbeliever, knowing that there is for them no helping hand, no clear passage through the horror of death. What Christ suffered for his church is what unbelievers have to deal with on their own. What a horrific prospect.
The amazing message of this passage is that there is no mention of faith, belief in Christ, good works, keeping of the law, or any of the requirements to remain faithful. The only requirement is that one’s name should be in the book of life. If it is not found there, one is thrown into the lake of fire.
If we examine the implication of this, it is inescapable to conclude that God ordained before creation, when He recorded the names of the elect in this book, who would face him here at this time. It is also inescapable to conclude that the Reformed doctrine of predestination is a sound doctrine based on what God teaches us about himself. It is further inescapable to conclude that nothing would prevent God from delivering those, and only those, whose names He beforehand wrote into the book of life, and that nothing man did or would do could influence God in choosing whose names should appear in this book.
Even if one should, like the Jews, believe that God continually adds and removes names from the book of life as one’s works warrant inclusion or exclusion, it still remains that God is omnipotent and it would be impossible for Him not to have known, even before creation, whose names would eventually end up in the book of life. It is, therefore, a misconception to believe, on the one hand, that God is omnipotent, but on the other hand, that He would wait on man to err or do good to finally conclude whose names belong in the book of life and whose do not.
The following passages dealing with the book of life, speak of this in the same manner.
Revelation 13:8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
Revelation 17:8 The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.
Revelation 20:15 If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
It stands to reason, then, that the elect has to be justified and sufficiently sanctified before they die because there is no opportunity after the first death to repent and continue sanctification.
It also stands to reason that the offices of Savior and Comforter end when the need for Christ to be Savior and the Holy Spirit to be a Comforter became obsolete. Christ has no need to save those who are already in heaven and the Holy Spirit has no need to comfort those who have already had that which they lost, their eternal life with God, restored in them. Does this mean that the purpose for which Christ died also ends? No, other offices of Christ, such as Mediator, King, and Priest remain forever. The office of Mediator never ends because that permanent relationship with the Father is through Christ alone. The office of King remains forever, because that is what Christ is. And in the order of Melchisedech, Christ remains priest forever.
What John sees here is not a new heaven and a new earth in the sense of recreation or regeneration, but a new heaven and earth replacing the old.
Isaiah 65:17 "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy."
Isaiah 66:22 "As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me," declares the LORD, "so will your name and descendants endure."
II Peter 3:13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
Everything that was contaminated or corrupted with sin had to be destroyed to make room for that, which was pure and holy.
Revelation 6:14 The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
Revelation 20:11 … Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
The sea symbolizes the masses of wicked people and world institutions from which all evil came forth. The beast that came from the sea was meant to counterfeit Christ that came from the human race. See the symbolism of the sea in these passages.
Isaiah 51:10 Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over?
Isaiah 57:20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.
Jeremiah 5:22 Should you not fear me?" declares the LORD. "Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it.
Daniel 7:3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.
There are many other passages in which the sea is used to symbolize the wicked world, so when John sees that there is no longer any sea, he is not describing the landscape of the new heaven and earth to us, but he is saying that the wicked multitudes and anti-God institutions would no longer exist.
John sees the antithesis of the world that passed away. As the old heaven and earth passed away in death and destruction, so the new heaven and earth descends as a bride, in beauty, purity, and love.
Just as the ancient holy city served as a dwelling place for the Lord, so this new Holy City, the new Jerusalem was created by God, coming down directly from heaven.
Psalm 132:13, 14 For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling. 14"This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it."
Galatians 4:24-26 These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.
Hebrews 12:22-24 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly. 23To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect. 24To Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 11:9, 10 By faith [Abraham] made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise, 10for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Hebrews 13:14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Revelation 3:12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
The loud voice from the throne is the voice of God announcing that He will now live directly among his people in holy communion, not, as before, through his Word.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The city, too sinful to be God’s dwelling place among his people, was destroyed with all the wicked within her, while this New Jerusalem comes directly from heaven, suitable for the living God; excellent for the elect to live in peace and harmony with God forever.
The following passages speak about this.
Ezekiel 37:26, 27 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Zechariah 2:10, 11 "Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the LORD. 11"Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you an you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you."
Zechariah 8:8 I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.
Zechariah 13:9 This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'
John 14:23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
II Corinthians 6:16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
The promises God made to Israel are now going into fulfillment in a glorious, everlasting sense. The golden thread of salvation history, which started before creation, when God authored the book of life, reaches its termination here where the final number of those who are on the roster of life are seeing their future dwelling place come down from heaven, hearing God’s voice calling them into his kingdom.
Leviticus 26:11, 12 I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. 12I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
Jeremiah 31:33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people."
Zechariah 8:8 I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.
These words contrast the old, miserable life with the new. God will wipe every tear from his people’s eyes by removing that, which caused the misery. Their chief misery and sorrow stems from the fact that they lost their eternal life through sin and getting it back was the only way to comfort them, to stop the sorrow.
The old order, in which mankind was allied with Satan, separated from God, has passed away as the old heaven and earth has passed away. As soon as all things sinful and wicked have been destroyed, and death and Hades have been thrown into the lake of fire, mourning and crying and pain ceased to exist. By throwing Satan and his henchmen into the lake of fire, God removed the origin and source of wickedness and separation from him, making it possible to once again live in the perfect Light; in intimate communion with God.
Isaiah 25:8 He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.
Isaiah 30:19 O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.
Isaiah 35:10 And the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Isaiah 51:11 The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Isaiah 60:20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.
Isaiah 61:3 And provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 65:18, 19 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
Jeremiah 31:13 Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
John, once again, only refers to God in the third person, being unable to describe God’s glory in mere words but rather using words that allow us to absorb the enormity of the vision. What God says here regarding heaven and differs from old-world expressions in that God previously announced things to come while here He issues a direct command, which instantly goes into fulfillment.
God’s process of recreation is hereby complete and the purpose for which all things were created in the first place, to gather for Himself a people who would freely glorify him, now goes into fulfillment.
Isaiah 42:9 See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.
II Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.
Revelation 1:11 Which said: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."
Revelation 1:19 "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later."