The Holy City
The Last Judgment and the Lake of Fire.
The final rebelling at the end of the 1,000 year reign of Christ will cause God to make an end of sins, reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness (Daniel 9:24).
When satan leads an innumerable host to compass the holy city, "fire came down from God from out of heaven and devoured them" (Revelation 20:9). "In that day, the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (I Peter 3:10). The curse of decay must be erased from the elements.
The devil will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone to be tormented day and night forever (Revelation 20:10). This place is far away from the earth. That which takes place there will be disintegration with no possibility of restoration. It could be a distant star (a great lake of fire). All unsaved people as well as the devil and his fellow fallen angels will dwell there for eternity.
This will take place after the great Judgment Day when the dead, small and great, shall stand before God. Hades will be emptied. The first death was the death of their bodies. They will be revived to stand before God, if they have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29). This is known as the Great White Throne Judgment. People will be judged according to what things were written in the books, their works (Revelation 20:12).
Whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). This book only contains the names of those that have accepted the gift of salvation in Jesus. This latter group will have been resurrected 1,000 years earlier in the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4,5).
Those at the Great White Throne will be judged by works. They will suffer according to their degree of guilt, in relation to their deeds, according to the amount of light they saw and rejected. The condemnation will be for the rejection of God's only begotten Son (John 3:18).
The supreme fact of human nature: "Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19.)
The Father has committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:22). Jesus said more than any other Biblical character about hell.
In all the descriptions of the last judgment, there is no mention of the saints, all those whose names were written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Jesus had told about two resurrections: the resurrection of life and the resurrection of damnation. It is now obvious that there will be 1,000 years between the two. The first before the tribulation, the second at the end of the millennium.
Revelation 20:5,6 -
"But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a Thousand years."
The first resurrection will involve stages: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming - those that have believed in the church age. Christ's Spirit, after the death on the cross, descended into Hades to declare His victory to the rebellious spirits imprisoned (I Peter 3:18). Then when He ascended and glorified His physical body, He led captivity captive, and just so also afterward the spirits of the righteous spirits were raised with Him and then ascended far above all heavens to the throne of God (Ephesians 4:10). Many appeared in Jerusalem, a testimony to the reality of Christ's resurrection.
When Mary Magdalene saw the risen Christ, He told her not to touch Him because He hadn't yet ascended to the Father. Then the first ascension where He took the resurrected saints with Him, only for that purpose. He then returned to earth to appear and continue teaching the disciples for 40 days (Acts 1:1-3).
When He again ascended into heaven and left with them the promise of His coming again in like manner, He also left the instructions to spread His Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).
I Thessalonians 4:14-17 -
"If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not preceded them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the air, to meet the Lord in the clouds: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
I Corinthians 15:51-53 -
"We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: ... For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."
I John 3:2 -
"It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is."
Though Paul died before Christ's return, but he looked for His appearing. James also in 5:8 - "Be ye also patient, stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth night."
Titus 2:12,13 -
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ."
Mark 13:32-33 -
"But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is."
Jesus warned us many times to be watchful, that His return will be without warning, imminent! We are to abide in Him so we may have confidence and not be ashamed at His coming (I John 2:28).
His coming for all Christians in the air, the Rapture, does not require any specific end time events. His return to the earth does follow the specifics of the gathering in the valley of Megiddo.
Matthew 24:30 -
"And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
After the Rapture comes the Great Tribulation - the time of wrath and destruction upon the world in conflict with God. There will be many saved during the Tribulation; they will suffer persecution by the ungodly. Every generation of believers have had persecution and suffering (some more than others).
These people were unbelievers before and after the Rapture, but do come to faith in Christ. They will have to live through the Tribulation only because they did not choose faith in Jesus before it. They will be thankful for this opportunity.
As the church of true believers will be removed from the earth by the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers, so also will the Holy Spirit remove its restraining influence over evil.
II Thessalonians 2:78 -
When the Holy Spirit "be taken out of the way ... Then shall that Wicked One be revealed." The great worldwide confusion of the Rapture may be the perfect opportunity for the Man of Sin to come forward to satisfy that confusion by some logical or reasonable explanation for such a unique event. The world will demand some explanation that will in effect draw people together in support of the one who can satisfy this need. It is to this world Enoch and Elijah will come to witness.
The Meeting in the Air
The greatest event to come for believers is the same as the one mentioned by Paul and John and every generation since. The meeting in the air of Christ with all His saints. Those dead in Christ first, then those which are still alive.
Jesus said: "Watch yet therefore, and pray always, that ye be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36). All shall have glorified bodies, those that died before us as well as those still alive: a glorious reunion.
One of the possible explanations given for the sudden disappearance of so many people all over the world will be alien spacecraft. Science fiction books, TV series, and movies have prepared the world for such an explanation. For more than 30 years, works of science fiction have become much more numerous and more realistically portrayed. Whatever explanation is given for the Rapture, however, most people will accept any - except the truth clearly prophesied in Holy Scripture.
Jesus had promised (in John 14:3) - "I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." The place is the Holy City of the New Jerusalem which will come down to the new earth after the Millennium.
As it is now, it is where Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, ever making intercession for His own. It is the paradise of the third heaven. This is also where the glorified Old Testament saints have been since the resurrection of Christ. Also the spirits of those now "dead in Christ" are awaiting the glorification of their own bodies. They are clothed in a celestial covering at rest. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. (II Corinthians 5:8.)
All Christians will face a judgment - but only for rewards. "If any man's work abide ... He shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (I Corinthians 3:14,15.) The highest hope is to hear Christ say "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. (Matthew 25:21.)
This article was written by my father T.O.D. Johnston, who was licensed to preach the Gospel by Paran Baptist Church on May 26, 1979. He has been a student of Scripture since 1972. View more lessons at his Bible Study Lessons page.