Part 7: The Marriage of the Lamb

PART VII (Chap. xix. 5 - xxii.)

(Chapters 25-26)


(Chap. xix. 5 - Ia.)

The harlot is now judged. The judgment of the whole earth is at hand. Before it comes, we are permitted a brief vision of heavenly things, and to see the heirs of the kingdom now ready to be established in their place with Him who is about to be revealed. A voice sounds from the throne: "Give praise to our God, all ye His servants, - ye that fear Him, small and great." It is not, of course, a simple exhortation to what in heaven can need no prompting, but a preparation of hearts for that which shall furnish fresh material for it. The response of the multitude shows what it is: "Hallelujah! for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth." The power that was always His He is now going to put forth. Judgment is to return to righteousness. Man's day is at an end, with all the confusion that his will has wrought. The day of the Lord is come, to abase that which is high and exalt that which is low, and restore the foundations of truth and righteousness.

The false church that would have antedated the day of power, and reigned without her Lord, has been already dealt with; and now the way is clear to display, the true Bride. "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." But the Church has been some time since caught up to meet the Lord: how is it that only now she is "ready"? In the application of the blood of Christ, and the reception of the best robe, fit for the Father's house assuredly, if any could be, she was then quite ready. Likeness to her Lord was completed when the glorified bodies of the saints were assumed, and they were caught up to meet Him in the air. The eyes from which nothing could be hid have already looked upon her, and pronounced her faultless: "Thou art all fair, My love: there is no spot in thee." What, then, can be wanting to hinder the marriage? A matter of divine government, not of divine acceptance ; and this is the book of divine government. Earth's story has to be rehearsed, the account given, the verdict rendered, as to all "deeds done in the body." Every question that could be raised must find its settlement: the light must penetrate through and through, and leave no part dark. We must enter eternity with lessons all learnt, and God fully glorified about the whole course of our history.

What follows explains fully this matter of readiness "And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." We see by the language that it is grace that is manifest in this award. We learn by a verse in the last chapter how grace has manifested itself: "Blessed are they that have washed Iheir robes (R. V), that they might have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the city." But what could wash deeds already done? Plainly no reformation, no "water- washing by the Word." (Eph. v. 26.) The deed done cannot be undone; and no well-doing for the future can blot out the record of it. What, then, can wash such garments? Revelation itself, though speaking of another company, has already given us the knowledge of this: "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of Ihe Lamb." (Chap. vii. i4.) Thus the value of that precious blood is found with us to the end of time, and in how many ways of various blessing!

It is not, then, the best robe for the Father's house that robe never needs washing. It is for the kingdom, for the world, in the governmental ways of God with men, that this fine linen is granted to the saints. Yet they take their place in it at the marriage supper of the Lamb; for Christ's love it is that satisfies itself with the recognition and reward of all that has been done for love of Him. This is what finds reward; and thus the hireling principle is set aside. "And he saith unto me, 'Write, Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" Blessed indeed are they that are bidden now! Alas! they may despise the invitation. But how blessed are they who, when that day comes, are found among the bidden ones! I leave for the present the question of who exactly make up the company of those that form the Bride; but the Bride assuredly sits at the marriage supper, and the plural here is what one could alone expect in such an exclamation as this. There seems, therefore, no ground in such an expression for distinguishing separate companies as the Bride and the "friends of the Bridegroom." The latter expression is used by the Baptist in a very different application, as assuredly he had no thought of any bride save Israel.

"And he saith unto me, 'These are the true words of God.'" Of such blessedness, it would seem, even the heart of the apostle needed confirmation. Then, as if overcome by the rapture of the vision, "I fell down at his feet," says John, "to worship him. And he saith unto me, 'See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God : for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.'"

All prophecy owns thus and honours Jesus as its subject. All that own Him, the highest only the most earnestly, refuse other honour than that of being servants together of His will and grace. How our hearts need to be enlarged to take in His supreme glory ! and how ready are we in some way, if not in this, to share the glory which is His alone with some creature merely! Rome's coarse forms of worship to saints and angels is only a grosser form of what we are often doing, and for which rebuke will in some way come; for God is jealous of any impairment of His rights, and we of necessity put ourselves in opposition to the whole course of nature as we derogate from these. "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."

(Chap. xix. 11 - 21.)
The prophecy pauses not further now to dilate upon the blessing. There is needed work to be done before we can enter upon this; and the work is the "strange work" of judgment. The vision that follows is as simple as can be to understand, if there are no thoughts of our own previously in the mind to obscure and make it difficult. And this is the way in which constantly Scripture is obscured.

Revelation, as the closing book of the inspired Word, supposes indeed acquaintance with what has preceded it, and the links with other prophecy are here especially abundant. The kingdom of Christ is the final theme of the Old Testament, upon which all prophetic lines converge; and the judgment which introduces it is over and over again set before us. The appearing of the Lord, and His personal presence to execute this, are also so insisted on, that nothing but the infatuation of other hopes could prevail to hide it from men's eyes. In the New Testament, the same things face us continually. As we are not considering it for the first time here, it will be sufficient to examine what is in the passage before us, with whatever connection it may have with other scriptures, needful to bring out fully the meaning of it.

Heaven is seen opened, the prophet's stand-point being therefore now on earth, and a white horse appears, the familiar figure of war and victory. It is upon the Rider that our eyes are fixed. He is called "Faithful and True" - known manifestly to be that - and in righteousness He judges and wars: His warring is but itself a judgment. For this, His eyes penetrate as a flame of fire; nothing escapes them. Many diadems - the sign of absolute authority - are on His head. And worthily, for His name in its full reality - name expressing (as always in Scripture) nature - is an incommunicable one, beyond the knowledge of finite creatures. But His vesture is dipped in blood, for already many enemies have fallen before Him. And His name is called - has been and is, as the language implies, - " The Word of God." The gospel of John shows us that in creation already He was acting as that; and now in judgment He is no less so.

Is this revealed name any thing else than His incommunicable one? It would seem not. The thought would appear to be in direct refutation of the skeptical denial of the knowledge of the Infinite One as possible to man. We cannot know infinity, but we can know the One who is infinite, - yea, know Him to be infinite: know His name, and not know His name. The Infinite One, moreover, Christ is declared here to be, - no inferior God, but the Highest.

In the power of this, He now comes forth; the armies that are in heaven following their white-horsed Leader, themselves also upon white horses, sharers with Him in the conflict and the victory, clothed in fine linen, white and pure. It is this fine linen which we have just seen as granted to the Bride, and which needed the blood of the Lamb to make it white. It is therefore undoubtedly the same company here as there, only here seen in a new aspect, even as the Lord Himself is seen in a new one. It is communion with Himself that is implied in this change of character. What He is occupied with, they are occupied with; what is His mind is their mind: so, blessed be God, it will be entirely then. None then will be ignorant of His will; none indifferent or half-hearted as to it. Alas! now to how much of it are even the many willingly strangers! and it is this willing ignorance that is so invincible: for all else there is a perfect remedy in the Word of God; but what for a back turned upon that Word?

The Lord comes then, and all the saints with Him. How impossible to think of a providential coming merely here! "When Christ, who is our Life, shall appear," says the apostle, "then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. 11. 4.) "Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?" he asks elsewhere. Judgment is now impending: "out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He may smite the nations." So Isaiah: "He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked." (Chap. Xi. 4.) It needs but a word from Him to cause their destruction; while it is judgment no less according to His Word: it is that long and oft threatened, slow to come, but at last coming in the full measure of the denunciation. Patience is not repentance.

"And He shall rule them with an iron rod"- - -"shepherd" them, to use a scarcely English expression. This is, of course, the fulfillment of the prophecy of the second psalm, and decides against the still retained "break them" of the Revised Version. It is the shepherd's rod - this rod of iron, used in behalf of the flock: as He says in Isaiah again, "The day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed is come; and I looked, and there was none to help, and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore Mine own arm brought salvation unto Me, and My fury, it upheld Me." (Chap. lxiii.) This is distinctly in answer to the question, "Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-fat?" and to which He answers, "I have trodden the wine-press alone." Here also "He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."

Would it be believed that commentators have referred this to the cross, and the Lord's own sufferings there? And yet it is so; though the iron rod, with which the treading of the wine-press is associated in this place, is something that is promised to the overcomer in Thyatira - " To him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, even as I received of My Father." We have but with an honest mind to put a few texts together after this manner, and all difficulty disappears.

"And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written - "King of kings and Lord of lords." Now, in terrible contrast to the invitation lately given to the marriage supper of the Lamb, an angel standing in the sun bids the birds of the heaven to the "great supper of God," to feast upon earth's proudest and all their following. Immediately after which the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies are seen gathered together to make war against Him who sits upon the horse, and against His army. We are no doubt to interpret this according to the Lord's words to Saul of Tarsus, - "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" But we have seen the idol thrust into Jehovah's temple, and know well that Israel's persecutors rage openly against Israel's God. They are taken thus banded in rebellion, and judgment sweeps them down; the beast and the false prophet that wrought miracles before him (the antichristian second beast of the thirteenth chapter) being exempted from the common death, only to be Cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone, where at the end of the thousand years of the saints' reign with Christ we find them still.

The vision is so clear in meaning, that it really has no need of an interpreter; and we should remember this as to a vision, that it is not necessarily even symbolic, though symbols may have their place in it, as here with the white horses of that before us, while the horses whose flesh the birds eat are not at all so. The "beast and the kings of the earth" furnish us with the same juxtaposition of figure and fact, the figure not at all hindering the general literality of fact. In these prophecies of coming judg­ment, the mercy of God would not permit too thick a vail over the solemn truth. This is the end to which the world is hastening now, and God is proportionally taking off the vail from the eyes upon which it has been lying, that there may be a more urgent note of warning given as it draws nigh. "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear!"


(Chap. xx. 1 - 3.)
The judgment upon living men is followed by that upon Satan their prince, though not yet is it final judgment. This partial dealing with the great deceiver means that the end of man's trial is not even yet reached. He is shut up in the abyss, or bottomless pit, of which we have read before, but not in hell (the lake of fire). As restraint, it is complete; and with the devil, the host of fallen angels following him share his sentence. This is not merely an inference, however legitimate. Isaiah has long before anticipated what is here (chap. xxiv. 21 - 23): "And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days they shall be visited. Then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, aud before His ancients gloriously."

Here the contemporaneous judgment of men and angels at the beginning of the millennium is clearly revealed, and just as clearly, that it is not yet final. The vision in Revelation is also clear. The descent of the angel with the key and chain certainly need not obscure the meaning. Nor could the shutting up of Satan mean any thing less than the stoppage of all temptation for the time indicated. The "dragon," too, is the symbol for the explanation of which we are (as in the twelfth chapter,) referred to Eden, "the ancient serpent," and then are told plainly, "who is the devil and Satan." It is simply inexcusable to make the interpretation of the symbol still symbolic, and to make the greater stand for the less - Satan the symbol of an earthly empire or any thing of the sort. What plainer words could be used which Isaiah's witness also abundantly confirms. God has been pleased to remove all vail from His words here, and it does look as if only willful perversity could misunderstand His speech.

That after all this he is to be let out to deceive the nations is no doubt at first sight hard to understand. It is all right to inquire reverently why it should be; and Scripture, if we have learnt Peter's way of putting it together, - no prophecy to be interpreted as apart from the general body of prophecy, - will give us satisfactory, if sotemn, answer. The fact is revealed, if we could give no reason for it. Who are we to judge God's ways? and and with which of us must He take counsel? It should be plain that for a thousand years Satan's temptations cease upon the earth; and then they are renewed and successful, the nations are once more deceived.

What makes it so difficult to understand is that many have a false idea of the millennial age, as if it were "righteousness dwelling" on the earth instead of "righteousness reigning" over it. It is said indeed of Israel, after they are brought to God nationally, "My people shall be all righteous" (Is. lx. 21); but that is not the general condition. The eighteenth psalm, speaking prophetically of that time, declares, "The strangers shall submit themselves unto Me," which in the margin is given as "lie," or "yield feigned obedience." They submit to superior power, not in heart; and so it is added, "The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places." (Comp. lxvi. lxxxi. 15.) And Isaiah, speaking of the long length of years, says, "The child shall die a hundred years old," but adds, "and the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed." (lxv. 20.) So Zechariah pronounces the punishment of those who do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the glorious King (xiv. 17).

The millennium is not eternal blessedness; it is not the Sabbath, to which so many would compare it. It answers rather to the sixth day than the seventh, - to the day when the man and woman (types of Christ and the Church) are set over the other creatures. The seventh is the type of the rest of God, which is the only true rest of the people of God (Heb. iv. 9). The millennium is the last period of man's trial, and that is not rest: trial in circumstances the best that could be imagined, righteousness reigning, the course of the world changed, heaven open overhead, the earth filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, the history of past judgment to admonish for the future; the question will then be fully answered, whether sin is the mere fruit of ignorance, bad government, or any of the accidents of life to which it is so constantly imputed. Alas ! the issue, after a thousand years of blessing, when Satan is loosed out of his prison, will make all plain; the last lesson as to man will only then be fully learned.

(Chap. xx. 4-6.)
And now we have what requires more knowledge of the Word to understand it rightly; and here, more distinctly than before, there are vision and the interpretation of the vision, so that we will be inexcusable if we confound them. The vision is of thrones, and people sitting on them, judgment (that is, rule) being put into their hands. "The souls of those beheaded for the witness of Jesus and the word of God" are another company separate from these, but now associated with them; and "those who have not worshiped the beast" seem to be still another. All these live and reign with Christ a thousand years, and the rest of the dead do not live till the thousand years are ended.

That is the vision. The interpretation follows: "This," we are told, "is the first resurrection;" and that "blessed and holy is he who hath part in the first resurrection: upon these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."

We must look carefully at all this, and in its order. First, the thrones, aud those sitting on them: there should be no difficulty as to who these are, for we have already seen the elders crowned and seated in heaven, and before that have heard the Lord promise the overcomer in Laodicea that he should sit with Him upon His throne. That being now set up upon the earth, we find the saints throned with Him. In the interpretation, it is said they reign with Him a thousand years. The vision is thus far very simple.

Daniel has already spoken of these thrones: "I beheld," he says, "till the thrones were placed," (as the Revised Version rightly corrects the common one,) "and the Ancient of days did sit." (Chap. vii. 9.) But there was then no word as to the occupants of the thrones. It is the part of Revelation to fill in the picture on its heavenly side, and to show us who these are. They are not angels, who, though there may be "principalities" among them, are never said to reign with Christ. They are redeemed men, - the saints caught up at the descent of the Lord into the air (Thess. iv.), and who as the armies that were in heaven we have seen coming with the whIte-horsed King to the judgment of the earth.

This being so, it is evident that the "souls" next spoken of are a separate company from these, though joined to them as co-heirs of the kingdom. The folly that has been taught that they are "souls" simply, so that here we have a resurrection of souls, and not of bodies, - together with that which insists that it is a resurrection of truths or principles, or of a martyr-"spirit" - bursts like a bubble when we take into account the first company of living and throned saints. In the sense intended, Scripture never speaks of a resurrection of souls. "Soul" is here used for "person," as we use it still, and as Scripture often uses it; and the word "resurrection" is found, not in the vision, where its signification might be doubtful, but in the explanation, where we have no right to take it as other than literal. What is the use of explanation, except to explain. The recognition of the first company here also removes another difficulty, which troubled those with whom the "blessed hope" revived at the end of the last century, that the first resurrection consisted wholly of martyrs. The second company does indeed consist of these, and for an evident reason. They are those who, converted after the Church is removed to heaven, would have their place naturally in earthly blessing with Israel and the saved nations. Slain for the Lord's sake, during the tribulation following, they necessarily are deprived of this: only to find themselves in the mercy of God made to fill a higher place, and to be added, by divine power raising them from the dead, to the heavenly saints. How sweet and comforting this assurance as to the sufferers in a time of unequalled sorrow!

When we look further at this last company, we find, as already intimated, that it also consists of two parts: first, of those martyred in the time of the seals, and spoken of under the fifth seal; and secondly, the objects of the beast's wrath, as in chap. xiii. 7, i2. This particularisation is a perfect proof of who are embraced in this vision, and that we must look to those first seen as sitting on the thrones for the whole multitude of the saints of the present and the past. To all of which it is added that "the rest of the dead lived not again till the thousand years were finished," when we find in fact the resurrection of judgment taking place (vv. ii - 15). All ought to be simple, then. The "first resurrection" is a literal resurrection of all the dead in Christ from the foundation of the world, a certain group which might seem not to belong to IT, it being specialized, as alone needing this. The first resurrection is "first" simply in contrast with that of the wicked, having different stages indeed, but only one character: "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection! upon 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."

To suppose that this passage stands alone and unsupported in the New Testament is to be ignorant of much that is written. "Resurrection from the dead," as distinct from the general truth of "resurrection of the dead," is special New Testament truth. The Pharisees knew that there should be "a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." (Acts xxiv. 15.) But when the Lord spake of the Son of Man rising from the dead, the disciples question among themselves what the rising from the dead could mean (Mark ix. 9, io.) Christ's own resurrection is the pattern of the believer's. The "order" of the resurrection is distinctly given us: "Christ the first-fruits; afterward, they that are Christ's at His coming" (i Cor. xv. 23): not a general, but a selective resurrection. Such was what the apostle would by any means gain: not, as in the common version, "the resurrection of," but "the resurrection from the dead." (Phil. iii. ii.)

In his epistle to the Thessalonians, the same apostle instructs us more distinctly as to it, speaking in the way of special revelation, by "the word of the Lord:" "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 prevent" - or, as the Revised Version, "precede " - "them that 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 clouds, to meet the Lord in air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (i Thess. iv. 15 - 17.) Thus before He appears shall His saints be with Him; and, of course, long before the resurrection of the lost. But the Lord Himself has given us, in His answer to the Sadducees, what most clearly unites with this vision in Revelation (Luke xx. 34 - 36). They had asked Him of one who had married seven brethren: "Whose wife shall she be in the resurrection ?" meaning, of course, to discredit it by the suggestion. "And Jesus said unto them, 'The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage; but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.'"

Clearly this asserts the fact and gives the character of the special resurrection which the vision here describes. It is one which we must be "accounted worthy" to obtain, not one which nobody can miss: it is grace that acts in giving any one his place in it. Those who have part in it are by that fact proclaimed to be the "children of God," thus again showing that it cannot be a general one. They die no more: that is, (as here) they are not hurt of the second death. They are equal to the angels: above the fleshly conditions of this present life. Finally, it is the resurrection from the dead, not of the dead merely. All this is so plain that there should be no possibility of mistaking it, one would say; and yet it is no plainer than this scene in Revelation. How dangerous must be the spell of a false system, which can so blind the eyes of multitudes of truly godly and otherwise intelligent persons to the plain meaning of such scriptures as these! And how careful should we be to test every thing we receive by the Word, which alone is truth! Even the "wise" virgins slumbered with the rest. Which shows us also, however, that error is connected with a spiritual condition, even in saints themselves. May we be kept from alt that would thus cloud our perception of what, as truth, alone has power to bless and sanctify the soul!


(vv. 7 - 10.)
Of the millennial earth, not even the slightest sketch is given us here. The book of Revelation is the closing book of prophecy, with the rest of which we are supposed to be familiar; and it is the Christian book, which supplements it with the addition of what is heavenly. Thus the reign of the heavenly saints has just been shown us: for details as to the earth, we must go to the Old Testament.

In the millennium, the heavenly is displayed in connection with the earthly. The glory of God is manifested so that the earth is filled with the knowledge of it as the waters cover the sea. Righteousness rules, and evil is afraid to lift its head. The curse is taken from the ground, which responds with wondrous fruitfulness. Amid all this, the spiritual condition is by no means in correspondence with the outward blessing. Even the manifest connection of righteousness and prosperity cannot avail to make men love righteousness, nor the goodness of God, though evidenced on every side, to bring men to repentance. At the "four corners of the earth," retreating as far as possible from the central glory, there are still those who represent Israel's old antagonists, and thus are called by their names "Gog and Magog." Nor are they remnants, but masses of population, brought together by sympathetic hatred of God and His people, - crowding alike out of light into the darkness: a last and terrible answer to the question, "Lord, what is man?"

The Gog, of the land of Magog, whose invasion of Israel is prophetically described in the book of Ezekiel (xxxviii., xxxix.), is the prototype of these last invaders. There need be no confusion, however, between them; for the invasion in Ezekiel is premillennial, not postmillennial as that in Revelation. It is then that Israel are just back in their land (xxxviii. i4),.and from that time God's name is known in Israel, and they pollute His holy name no more (xxxix. 7). The nations too learn to knowHim (xxxviii. i6, 23). There needs, therefore, no further inquiry to be sure that this is not after a thousand years of such knowledge.

But the Gog and Magog here follow in the track of men who have long before made God known in the judgment He executed, - follow them in awful, reckless disregard of the end before them. This is clearly due to the loosing once more of Satan. While he was restrained, the evil was there, but cowed and hidden. He gives it energy and daring. They go up now on the breadth of the earth - from which for the moment the divine shield seems to be removed, and compass the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city. The last is of course the earthly Jerusalem. The "camp of the saints" seems to be that of the heavenly saints, who are the Lord's host around it. The city is of course impregnable: the rebels are taken in the plain fact of hostility to God and His people; and judgment is swift and complete: "fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." The wicked are extinct out of the earth.

The archrebel now receives final judgment. "And the devil, that deceived them, was cast into a lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are; and they shall be tormented day and night for the ages of ages."

These words deserve most solemn consideration. They are plain enough indeed; but what is there from which man will not seek to escape, when his will is adverse? The deniers of eternal punishment, both on the side of restitution and that of annihilation, are here confronted with a plain example of it. Two human beings, cast in alive into the lake of fire a thousand years before, are found there at the close of this long period still in existence! How evident that this fire is not, therefore, like material fire, but something widely different! All the arguments as to the action of fire in consuming what is exposed to it are here at once shown to be vain. That which can remain a thousand years in the lake of fire unconsumed may remain, so far as one can see, forever; and it is forever that they here are plainly said to be tormented.

But it is objected that there is, in fact, no verb here: the sentence reads simply, "where the beast and the false prophet," and that to fill up the gap properly we must put "were cast," which would say nothing about continuance. But what, then, about the concluding statement, "and they" - for it is a plural, - ."and they shall be tormented day and night for the ages of ages"?

Finding this argument vain, or from the opposite interest of restitution, it is urged that "day and night" do not exist in eternity. But we are certainly brought here to eternity, and "for the ages of ages" means nothing else. It is the measure of the life of God Himself (iv. io). No passage that occurs, even to the smoke of Babylon ascending up, can be shown to have a less significance.

Growing desperate, some have ventured to say that we should translate "till the ages of ages." But the other passages stand against this with an iron front, and forbid it. We are, in this little season, right on the verge of eternity itself. The same expression is used as to the judgment of the great white throne itself, which is in eternity. It will not do to say of God that He lives to the ages of ages, and not through them. The truth is very plain, then, that the punishment here decreed to three transgressors is, in the strictest sense, eternal.

Whether the same thing is true of all the wicked dead, we now go on to see.

The Judgment of the Dead
The millennium is over: "And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things that were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hades delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every one according to their works. And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."

This is the judgment of the dead alone, and must be kept perfectly distinct in our minds from the long previous judgment of the living. The judgment in Matt. xxv., for example, where the "sheep" are separated from the "goats," is a judgment of the living, - of the nations upon earth when the Lord comes. It is not, indeed, the warrior-judgment of those taken with arms in their hands, in open rebellion, which we have beheld in the premillennial vision. The nations are gathered before the Son of Man, who has just come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him; and that coming, as when elsewhere spoken of throughout the prophecy, is unquestionably premillennial. As mankind are divided into the three classes, "the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God," so the prophecy in relation to the Jew is to be found in chap. xxiv. 1 - 42; that in relation to the professing Church, to the thirtieth verse of the next chapter; and the rest of it gives us the sessional judgment of the Gentiles, so far as they have been reached by the everlasting gospel. The judgment is not of all the deeds done in the body: it is as to how they have treated the brethren of the Lord (v. 40) who have been among them, evidently as travellers, in rejection and peril. The Jewish point of view of the prophecy as a whole clearly points to Jewish messengers, who as such represent Israel's King (comp. Matt. X. 40). There is not a word about resurrection of the dead, which the time of this judgment excludes the possibility of as to the wicked. It is one partial as to its range, limited as to that of which it takes account, and in every way distinct from such a general judgment as the large part of Christendom even yet looks for. Here in the vision before us there is simply the judgment of the dead; and although the word is not used, the account speaks plainly of resurrection. The sea gives up the dead which are in it, as well as by implication also, the dry land. Death, as well as hades, deliver up what they respectively hold; and as hades is unequivocally the receptacle of the soul (Acts ii. 27), so must "death," on the other hand, which the soul survives (Matt. X. 28), stand here in connection with that over which it has supreme control - the body.

The dead, then, here rise; and we have that from which the "blessed and holy" of the first resurrection are delivered - the "resurrection of judgment." (Jno. V. 29, .R. V.) From personal judgment the Lord expressly assures us that the believer is exempt (v. 24, R. V.) Here, not only are the works judged, which will be true of the believer also, and for lasting blessing to him, but men are judged according to their works - a very different thing. Such a judgment would allow of no hope for the most upright and godly among mere men.

And this would seem to show that though a millennium has passed since the first resurrection, yet no righteous dead can stand among this throng. The suggestion of the "book of life" has seemed to many to imply that there are such; but it is not said that there are, and the words, "whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire," may be simply a solemn declaration (now affirmed by the result) that grace is man's only possible escape from the judgment. May it not even be intended to apply more widely than to the dead here, and take in the living saints of the millennium negatively, as showing how in fact they are not found before this judgment-seat?

At any rate, the principle of judgment -"according to their works"- seems to exclude absolutely any of those saved by grace. And there are intimations also, in the Old Testament prophecies, as to the extension of life in the millennium, which seem well to consist with the complete arrest of death for the righteous during the whole period. If "as the days of a tree shall be the days of" God's "people" (Is. lxv. 22), and he who dies at a hundred years dies as a child yet, and for wickedness: because there shall be no more any one (apart from this) that shall not fill his days (v. 20), it would almost seem to follow that there is no death. And to this the announcement as to the "sheep" in the judgment-scene in Matthew - that "the righteous shall go away into life eternal," strikingly corresponds. For to go into life eternal is not to possess life in the way that at present we may; in fact, as "righteous," they already did this: it means apparently nothing less than the complete cancelling of the claim of death in their case.

And now death and hades are cast into the lake of fire, - that is, those who dwelt in them are cast there. These exist as it were but in those who fill them; and thus we learn that there is no exemption or escape from the last final doom for any who come into this judgment. The lake of fire is the second death. The first terminated in judgment man's career on earth; the second closes the intermediate state in adjudged alienation from the Source of life. The first is but the type of the second. As we have seen, it is not extinction at all; and indeed a resurrection merely for the sake of suffering before another extinction would seem self-contradictory. In fact, death - what we ordinarily call that - is now destroyed. "It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment," which is thenceforth, therefore, undying (Heb. ix. 27).

With the great white throne set up, the earth and the heavens pass away, and there come into being a "new heaven and a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness." (2 Pet. iii. 13.)