Revelation Twenty – The General Judgment by William E. Cox

By April 9, 2011Revelation 20

‘And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire. And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire’ (Rev 20:11-15).

In this future scene John prophesies what is to happen following the millennium. He sees the time when the millennium will have ended, and Satan will have been released for a little time. He will have led an unprecedented warfare against the Christian church, only to have been defeated by the glorious appearing of the Christ. Then John sees that a general judgment follows.

That verses 11-15 depict a general resurrection followed by a general judgment seems so self-evident as not to require a discussion. Suffice it to say that in these verses we find: (1) all the dead are to be present at this judgment, the great and the small; (2) two different kinds of books will be used, the book of life containing the names of the saints, and the books containing the works of the unsaved; (3) a separation will take place, determined by the book of life (cf. Matt 25:46 and John 5:29 with this section); and (4) death will be conquered at that time: And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. Paul says elsewhere that the last enemy to be destroyed is death, and he definitely fixes that as the same time that Christians are to be resurrected and rewarded (1 Cor 15:26,51-55).

It would be difficult to find a more exact description of a genera] judgment than that recorded in Revelation 20:11-15. We know from other scriptures that the resurrection will precede the judgment. And if one is general, both are general. To base a doctrine of two bodily resurrections upon a chapter containing this vivid picture of one general resurrection is a poor searching of the Scriptures. While dogmatism is unwarranted in any part of Revelation 20, verses 11-15 lend themselves more readily to dogmatism than do verses 4-6.

As we close this section, a definition of terms would seem to be in order. As one studies the charts which dispensationalists use so profusely, one will notice that they often depict a ‘first’ physical resurrection followed one thousand and seven years later by the ‘general resurrection.’ This is a contradiction of terms. For the general resurrection has traditionally referred to a resurrection of all the dead of all time. If, as the premillennialists teach, all Christians are raised separately from the unsaved – then a second resurrection could not be properly called a general resurrection.

What the premillennialists actually have are two partial resurrections. In terming the latter of these a general resurrection they are attempting to stay within the framework of historic Christian teaching while at the same time inserting doctrines which disagree radically with the historic teachings of the New Testament, church fathers, Protestant reformers, and commentaries. This is another of those places where the chiliast cannot have his theological cake and eat it. To believe in a general judgment is immediately to cease being a chiliast in the true sense of the word.

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