letters to surfers

How do you interpret the books of judgment in Revelation 20:4-15?

This speaks of books being opened, a judgment, and some being thrown into "the lake of fire and sulfur."

Answer by Robert Brow August 1999     (Web site - www.brow.on.ca)

There is no one case in the OT of wrath meaning eternal damnation. In Daniel 7:9-27 the books of judgment are opened and the evil empire is "consumed and totally destroyed." But those books and that judgment refer to wrath consequences in this life. It is not the end of the world, but a preparation for God's people to reign with the Messiah in his kingdom (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27).

Jesus pointed out there is a keeping of records with a judgment in this life. "That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon earth . . . all this will come upon this generation" (Matthew 23:35-36) And that actually happened in that generation when the ascended Messiah toppled the temple and the religious establishment of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:2). And Jesus went on to use the exact metaphorical language of the fall of Babylon from Isaiah 13:6-13 for the day of the Lord destruction of a nation (Matthew 24:29-34).

As the Old Testament prophets pointed out again God clearly keeps a record (metaphorical books) of the behavior of nations, and judges them from time to time. The basis for the judgment of nations is set out in the parable of the sheep and the goats, which is about nations (Matthew 25:31-32).

I therefore view the Book of Revelation as a symbolic and very metaphorical picture of the continuing reign of the Messiah-Lamb-King first among the churches (chapter 1-3), and then in interventions again and again among the nations. Satan keeps being silenced, then emerges to take power again. The books of judgment therefore refer to the account that the reigning Messiah keeps of the behavior of nations, cities, churches, and individuals and the eventual judgment and vindication that He assigns here on earth.

That suggests that the thrones of judgment in Revelation 20:4 refer to the vindication of martyrs, the books of Revelation 20:12 & 15 refer to the account the Messiah keeps of each nation's behavior, his judgment is by way of wrath consequences in this life, and the thousand years is symbolic of a long period of time of church growth till the next eruption.

If that model is what the OT prophets, Jesus in the Gospels, and the Book of Revelation had in mind, then there is no literal place called a lake of fire. This seems to fit the imagery of Babylon (Jerusalem or Rome or both) metaphorically being judged with fire (Revelation 18:8-9, 19:3, 15, 20, 20:10, 15).

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