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The Last Judgment and the Great White Throne

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Question #1:  Hello Bob,  Is there a short summary to describe: Tribulation and the Church. Post? What does that all mean?  144,000 Who are they, and what does that mean, 1,000 year Reign, Great White Throne. Who will be there, and what is going on? I know this info is available on your site in detail, but am looking for a short summary.  May God continue to Bless Your Ministry to encourage others.

Response #1:  The Tribulation is a seven year period preceding Christ's return. The Church is resurrected when our Lord returns at the end of that terrible seven year period. The series, Coming Tribulation (please see the link), is devoted to all the details on this, while The Satanic Rebellion series gives important information for understanding eschatology as a whole and is a recommended preliminary study.  For the Great White Throne, see in part 6 of Coming Tribulation: The Great White Throne of Jesus Christ: The Last Judgment of the Unbelieving Dead.

The 144,000 are covered at the link in part 2B of Coming Tribulation. They are specially chosen pairs of Jewish evangelists who will be responsible for bringing the gospel to unbelieving Israel under the guidance of Moses and Elijah during the first half of the Tribulation. They are martyred as the first wave of martyrs for Christ in the early days of antichrist's Great Persecution during the Great Tribulation, the seven year period's even more terrible second half.

Following our Lord's return at the end of the Tribulation (the second advent), the resurrection of the Church (all who have believed prior to this point who meet the Lord in the air on His return), and the destruction of the armies of antichrist at Armageddon, our Lord takes up a literal thousand year reign in Jerusalem (aka the Millennium). We will all be there in resurrection and will share His rule (cf. Rev.3:21). Israel, those who did not believe during the ministry of Moses and Elijah and the 144,000 yet had not taken the name of the beast, will be regathered into the land of Israel, and the world will know its most blessed and peaceful period in her history since the expulsion from Eden (see the link, "The Millennium"). At the end of the 1,000 years, the devil will be released from the Abyss one last time, and will manage in short order to seduce a great majority of the world's population into attacking Jerusalem (Rev.20:7-10). As soon as they are gathered, they will be destroyed, and that will be the end of the 7,000 years of human history. At this time there will take place the final installment of the resurrection. Departed believers (the sheep) will be resurrected and join the Church as Christ's double portion, while all the dead unbelievers in the history of the world (the goats) will be resurrected to face their "last judgment" (aka the Great White Throne; Rev.20:11-15). At this time the present heavens and earth will be transformed by fire into the new heavens and new earth "where righteousness dwells" (cf. 2Pet.3:10-13), New Jerusalem will descend from heaven to earth, and the advent of the Father will mean that all has been restored to its glorious pre-Satanic rebellion situation -- only much better than before, and God and saved mankind will commune forever together in the perfect Eternal State (Rev. chap. 21-22).  All of these eschatological issues are covered in part 6 of Coming Tribulation: Last Things:  Revelation 20-22:5.

This is a very brief, broad-brush synopsis (what you were looking for, I think), and there is much more about all of this at the site, especially in the two series mentioned at the outset. I would be happy to direct you more info, or answer any other questions that come up as a result of this response.

In eager anticipation of all the glories to come in Jesus Christ!

Bob L.


Question #2: 

Hello Bob,

I know you have had this question many times, but as always, I look forward to the wisdom the Lord gives you for me! I know that all my sin prior to accepting Christ is forgiven. How is the daily personal sin covered. Do we have to own up to it and confess it as part of our personal relationship, or is it just covered because there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus? Will these unconfessed sins be brought before us as judgment?

Looking forward to your reply. In Christ,

 

Response #2: 

I would imagine that you are already aware of this, but - just in case - let me point out that the study "Hamartiology: the Study of Sin" gives the details, the argumentation, the theology, and the scriptural support for my much simplified answer below (see especially section V. "The Believer's Dealing with Sin").

With one exception, no one will be judged for personal sins at the Last Judgment, not even unbelievers (Matt.25:31ff.; Rev.20:11-15). There is, of course, one sin for which Christ could not die, the so-called "unpardonable sin", namely, the rejection of Himself. In order to get the benefit of the redemption in His blood, an individual has to accept Him and His work on the cross, the death He "died to sin" (Rom.6:10), and this may only be done through faith. Everyone who dies in an unbelieving state has rejected Him and His work, actively or passively, and so must stand instead on his or her own works (a fact that Matt.25 and Rev.20 each express in their own way). Unbelievers are indeed condemned, but are so because they have "not believed in the Name (i.e., Person and work) of the One and only Son of God" (Jn.3:18). Christ's work avails for the forgiveness of all sin (other than the sin of rejecting Him and by definition the Father as well) so that the atonement of the cross is "universal" except for those who reject that atonement by rejecting Jesus Christ. Blessedly, as believers, we have passed from death to life. In addition to having all of our sins atoned for as an issue in final judgment, we have put our faith in Christ have also received blanket forgiveness for all of our sins, past present and future, from a positional point of view so that God considers us holy and has made us part of His own family, and one with His Son our Lord Jesus Christ – but for this faith is required (Acts 26:15-18).

What we do not have even as believers is automatic experiential "here and now" forgiveness of sins we knowingly and willfully commit after salvation. That is to say, our future sins do not in and of themselves affect our status as believers (since Christ died for them), but they most definitely do affect the quality of our relationship with the Lord. For one thing, they bring on divine discipline, and that discipline can be both severe and long-lasting (Heb.12). When we repent of our behavior and then confess our sins to the Lord, we receive forgiveness and restoration of fellowship (1Jn.1:9), though not necessarily an immediate end to discipline or the natural consequences of those sins. This concept of experiential versus positional forgiveness (i.e., between being cleansed once and for all in Christ yet needing forgiveness on a day by day basis as well), was illustrated for us our Lord Himself in His use of footwashing (experiential forgiveness that comes from confession) as distinguished from the "bath" of salvation: "he who has had a bath only has need to wash his feet, but otherwise he is completely clean" (Jn.13:10). So the judgment of life vs. death is one now not based upon sin at all, but upon the unbeliever's foolish claim, expressed and understood or not, that his or her works are "good enough" to have eternal life, and that he or she therefore does not need the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (their condemnation is assured). We believers likewise have nothing to fear in terms of eternal judgment from sin per se, since we have already received the redemption and the cleansing that comes through faith in Jesus Christ:

How much more [is it not then clearly the case that] we who have been justified by His blood shall therefore [certainly] be saved through Him from the wrath [of judgment to come]!
Romans 5:9

Sin is, however, quite a problem. In addition to divine discipline, there is also the fact that sin has the potential to tear down everything we have built up in our spiritual life, compromising not only our spiritual growth, but also everything we have accomplished in ministry and the rewards pertaining thereto (cf. 2Jn.1:8). The most extreme case of this is apostasy, wherein the believer gives him or herself so fully and completely up to sin and evil that faith is not only eroded, but eventually quenched altogether, so that the end is worse than the beginning (2Pet.2:20-22).

As I say, there is much more on all these points in Basics 3B, "Hamartiology". But do please feel free to get back to me on any aspects of this question which may still be bothering you.

Yours in the One who died for all of our sins that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.


Question #3:
 

Regarding 1st Thessalonians 4:15ff., I hear all the time, about people who have died, being in Heaven now. Regardless of their salvation or not, but I know that the bible says that since Christ's ascension, every believer that dies goes immediately to Heaven. So Judgement happens right after death? or does everyone go to Heaven awaiting judgement? Who are the dead in Christ that shall rise first? Wouldn't they already be in Heaven?


Response #3:
 

The resurrection has not yet occurred. It will occur at the return of our Lord at the end of the Tribulation (this is the event to which 1Thes.4:15ff. refers; see the link "A view of the rapture"). When believers go to be with the Lord, since Jesus' ascension to the Father – you are correct – that person goes to heaven where Jesus is (Jn.14:3; cf. Eph.4:8). Although the resurrection is still future, rather than being a disembodied spirit, however, that believer and all other believers receive an interim body, a "tent", so to speak, which serves as the home for their spirit until the resurrection (described in 2Cor.5:3 in the Greek [mistranslated in most versions], and Rev.6:11; 7:9; see the link: "Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State").

As believers, we will not enter into judgment in the same sense as unbelievers, for we have "passed from death to life" (Jn.5:24; 1Jn.3:14). The time of our life-evaluation (described among other places in 1Cor.3:10-15) is at the second advent at the "judgment seat of Christ". For our resurrection must take place first since the rewards we receive are operative during the Millennium (Rev.2:26-27; 3:21; 20:4-6). I have a lot more to say about this, slated to come out in part 6 of the Coming Tribulation series, but as that is many months in the offing, for now you can find many more details about all aspects of our judgment as believers and the rewards pertaining thereto at the following links:

Eternal Rewards

Peter #18: Production and Eternal Rewards.

Everything we do for Jesus lasts forever – everything else is dust.

In our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.


Question #4:

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. It certainly is a blessing every time I turn on my computer and double-click my Ichthys shortcut on my desktop and there you are: still dispensing valuable information on our Lord and Savior in a truly loving manner. Today the subject is the timing of the judgments for the saved and unsaved. I will give you the quote by the person asking me so you will know what I am up against….

…….I assume you make that assumption to explain how no believers would need to appear before the great white throne judgment. Perhaps you recognize the dilemma of believers during the millennium must appear before a judgment, and you need to provide a judgment for them. When Rev. 20 speaks of the rest of the dead not living again until after the millennium, it doesn't put boundaries on who will be included. It doesn't say only non-believers. Why bother to even check in the book of life if no one appearing then is in it? People make the same bad assumption regarding the GWT judgment as they do with the judgment seat of Christ: assuming one is only for believers and the other is only for non-believers. It doesn't do a lot of good for me to address certain passages because you don't touch on any specifics that I bring up. I brought up Dan. 12:1-2, John 5:28, and 1 Cor. 5:10 which shows everyone, just and unjust, appearing before the judgment at the second coming, and it's like I never mentioned it because you don't acknowledge it. You just go back to your pat statements.

So as you can see the debate is on when the judgments are and for who. Are sinners and saints judged at the same time at the beginning of the millennium and then both sinners and saints judged at the GWT. It is confusing because if the judgment for believers is at the beginning of the millennium, then what of believers converted or born DURING the millennium. Help. Any light you could shed on this would be greatly appreciated.

In Christ,
 

Response #4: 

Just as an aside, the "tone" of the person you are corresponding with doesn't come across as particularly open to truth. One would hope that all believers in Jesus would really want to know the precise truth of everything the Bible has to say. Clearly, we all can use instruction, and sometimes defending or supporting a particular position can - within limits - be fruitful in getting to the truth. However, in my experience, whenever someone is so dug in on a particular point that it comes to nastiness (as happens all too frequently with those associated with particular groups), the chances of reaching "open ears" is generally not too great. One hopes that is not the case here.

Still, this is a fair subject to pursue since this point of eschatology is often poorly understood. That is in my opinion because 1) it is in fact not an easy issue to disentangle, and 2) so many groups have muddied the waters with the mis-guided pre-Trib rapture theory (and have as a result needed to shift everything around to make it all agree).

Reading between the lines of the quotes you include, it seems this person is of the opinion that the Great White Throne is "the last judgment" and that there are no others besides. The desire to make it so is an understandable one, since that would be "simple" - or so it seems. However, even within the context of Revelation chapter 20 that theory runs into serious problems. For we see in verses 4-6 a description of resurrected believers who 1) are ruling with Christ, and 2) are no longer under the power and threat of the second death. First, if they are "ruling with Christ", there has to have been some sort of judgment in order for their various merits and accomplishments to be weighed and their respective positions assigned (since this is a clear reward: Rev.2:26-27; 3:21). Second, the end of the Great White Throne judgment is for all concerned and without any exception noted in the context the second death (i.e., being thrown into the lake of fire: Rev.20:14-15), but of course the believers mentioned earlier in the chapter are said to have been resurrected and no longer under this threat because they were just said to be "no long subject to the second death" in Rev.20:6 (so that the outcome of this supposed last judgment would be inapplicable to them just as we would expect: cf. Rev.2:11). N.b.: the phrase at the beginning of verse 5, "the rest of the dead", is a latter addition and not part of the original Greek text – all believers are resurrected at Christ's return, not just the tribulational martyrs.

There are a couple of points here which need to be addressed to clear up the confusion that is evident from the remarks you quote.

1) The book of life: Many are under the false impression that our names are recorded in the book when we believe. That, however, does not reflect the true grace of God nor the efficacious nature of the work of Christ on the cross who died for all mankind: since Jesus died for all, all are placed in the book, and it is only through willful rejection of the offer of salvation (either actively or passively, directly rejecting Him or refusing to accept Him), that a person's name is blotted out. But not only does this square with what is reasonable when all that the cross truly means is properly understood – it is also what the scriptures directly teach (if closely examined). For example Psalm 69:28 asks the Lord to blot the godless out of the book (and, being "godless" they never would have been in there if the first place unless everyone was placed in it originally). Rather than repeat everything I have previously written on this here, please see the following links: "Erasing the name from the book of life" (in CT2A), and "The book of life" (in CT4).

2) The Great White Throne Judgment: Apropos of our discussion here, moreover, the wording at the end of the Great White Throne is critical. First of all, in verse 12, we see very specifically how it is that these individuals are judged. For although more than one book is opened, these dead are judged not through the book of life (which in verse 15 is the "fail-safe" to show that no believer is thus condemned), but rather through the other books which contain their "deeds" (i.e., everything they ever did or said or thought). Believers, of course, are saved "by grace through faith" (Eph.2:8-9), and our "deeds" are only important insofar as they are the basis for reward where genuinely good (with everything else being "burned up" at the Judgment Seat of Christ: 1Cor.3:12-15). Secondly, we see very specifically in verse 13 who it is that is being judged. For we are told that "death and Hades" comprise this final judgment. These are very clearly unbelievers only, since believers without question now enter into the presence of the Lord after death and not into Hades, the veil of the heavens having been rent in two by our Lord's victory at the cross and ascension into the presence of the Father (see the link: "Entrance into the heavenly Tabernacle" in SR1). Thirdly, we see very specifically in verse 13 what this judgment entails: the hands-down best manuscript of the New Testament reads here for what most versions translate "judged" not the Greek word krino (for which "judged" would be an acceptable translation) but kata-krino, which must be translated "condemned": "And each of them was condemned based upon what they had done". Therefore the evidence from context has nothing to recommend a judgment of believers but gives every indication that unbelievers are the object of the judgment. For the unbelievers judged here it will be pointed out in great detail one and all how they did indeed have knowledge of God, His requirements, and opportunities and incentives to turn to Him, and, secondarily, how nothing they ever did, said or thought had any merit when it comes to eternal life – that is the meaning of being "judged according to their deeds". For more on the specifics please see the links:

*The Last Judgment (in CT 6)

The Great White Throne Judgment.

The Great White Throne and the Outer Darkness

3) The Timing of the Judgment of the Church: Much of the resistance to this interpretation seems to be stemming from the issue of "what happens to millennial believers?" First of all, something that is also generally not widely understood, the "Church" per se is composed of all who believe from Adam and Eve to the Second Advent. All these are resurrected at Christ's return (and it is to that event that the 1Cor.15:50ff; and 1Thes.4:13ff. etc. refer). Those who believe from the point of Christ's return and thereafter during the Millennium are not resurrected until after the end of the Millennium (these are the "friends of the Bride/Church" who are invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb: Rev.19:9; cf. Ps.45:14). For obvious reasons (of far distant futurity), we are not given a tremendous amount of information about this second resurrection and merit -based judgment for the purpose of rewards, but Paul refers to it (i.e., the third phase of the resurrection of the living at 1Cor.15:24), and we do have the gist of that judgment provided in our Lord's own words, namely, in the so-called "sheep and goats judgment". Therein we see that the end of things for the unbelievers at the end of history is the lake of fire (Matt.26:41; 26:46), just as in Revelation 20. However, the (millennial) believers (i.e., the "sheep") are definitely described as separated from the unbelievers, as sheep are separated from goats. And they are treated entirely separately after the separation: they are judged first. Note, their judgment is completed before the other begins (cf. 1Pet.4:17: the judgment begins with the household of God). For what I would deem obvious reasons, Revelation does not need to go into the details about the millennial believers' judgment (indeed, it gives much less information about the judgments of believers generally than we receive from elsewhere in scripture!), but it does include the Great White Throne judgment of unbelievers. This is partly because the theme in Revelation is one of the judgment and eradication of evil, but even more significantly because as this is the last judgment of unbelievers it is therefore the absolutely last and final event in human history before the beginning of the eternal state described in chapters 21-22.

If this were the only place in the book of Revelation where we had to add other scriptures to get the complete picture of the end times, then perhaps one might find grounds for quibbling about some of the above. But if fact the only way that Revelation can be properly interpreted at all is by drawing together all the skeins of prophecy from everywhere else in the Bible (see part 1 of Coming Tribulation: Introduction). When we follow this procedure in the case of the Great White Throne judgment we find, as is inevitably the case when scripture is carefully and faithfully searched, that the picture is consistent with everything else that can be learned about the issue from the Bible.

As to the passages referenced by your correspondent, Dan. 12:1-2 and John 5:28 do treat the two resurrections together, but significantly neither says that both happen at precisely the same time (2Cor. 5:10, "we must appear" is irrefutably a reference to believers only). Given the canons of proper interpretation of scripture, this cannot then be a basis for assuming the judgments must be contemporaneous. After all, we know from 1st Corinthians 15:23-24 that the resurrection of the righteous will have three echelons: 1) Christ, 2) the second advent resurrection (i.e., the Church); and *3) "the end" (and this refers to the Millennial believers), a fact which in itself makes lumping these three phases together at the Great White Throne an inadmissible thing from any conservative hermeneutic. Finally, the Old Testament prophecies consistently conflate future events, the first and second advents more often than anything else (see the link: "Prophetic Foreshortening" in CT1). The same sort of interpretative method that refused to accept the cross without the crown (insisting on improperly lumping them together) would refuse to see any temporal distance between judgments because of the likes of Dan. 12:1-2 and John 5:28. But as there is in the former case a space of time between advents, so there is in the latter case a distinction in the timing of the resurrections, and nothing in these (or any other verses) rules out that interpretation as developed in this e-mail.

Please see the following links:

Great White Throne, the Last Judgment, and the Outer Darkness.

The Great White Throne Judgment.

The Judgment Seat of Christ

 

In case there is any other aspect of this discussion not addressed above, I would certainly be happy to reply further.

Best wishes in your investigation and defense of the truth of the Word of God.

In Jesus who is the resurrection and the life.

Bob L.

 

Question #5:

Mr. Bob Luginbill,

I am the author of the comments quoted above in XXXX's e-mail. I read your response and have a few questions. You made the comment:

n.b.: the phrase at the beginning of verse 5, "the rest of the dead", is a latter addition and not part of the original text - all believers are resurrected at Christ's return, not just the tribulational martyrs.

First of all, I don't understand your comment that "the phrase at the beginning of verse 5, "the rest of the dead", is a latter addition and not part of the original text ". On what basis do you make that statement? What "original text " are you referring to? Also, the Net Bible says: 12 sn This statement appears to be a parenthetical comment by the author. The Net Bible's comment on verse 5 and your comment are two different things.

You said also:

Secondly, we see very specifically in verse 13 who it is that is being judged. For we are told that "death and Hades" comprise this final judgment. These are very clearly unbelievers only, since believers without question now enter into the presence of the Lord after death and not into Hades, the veil of the heavens having been rent in two by our Lord's victory at the cross and ascension into the presence of the Father (see the link: "Entrance into the heavenly Tabernacle" in SR1).

You seem to have erred when you say, "For we are told that "death and Hades" comprise this final judgment. These are very clearly unbelievers only". The text actually states that all three give up their dead. The "dead which is in the sea" (TOUS NEKROUS TOUS EN AUTH), "the death" (h0 QANATOS) and "Hades" all give up their dead. While you are correct in that all righteous when absent from the body are present with the Lord, you error I believe when you limit those "dead in the sea" and those of "the death" to unbelievers. That is an assumption that scripture does not support in this verse.

Lastly, you make the comment:

Thirdly, we see in very specifically in verse 13 what this judgment entails: the hands-down best manuscript of the New Testament reads here for what most versions translate "judged" not krino (for which "judged" would be an acceptable translation) but kata-krino, which must be translated "condemned": "And each of them was condemned based upon what they had done". Therefore the evidence from context has nothing to recommend a judgment of believers but gives every indication that unbelievers are the object of the judgment.

Once again, what is this "hands-down best manuscript of the New Testament"? It must be a dandy 'cause I can't find any GNT that has KATAKRINW in verse 13 or even in the book of Revelation. As far as I can find all texts use the Aorist Passive of KRINW, both eccletic and TR texts.

I'm sure it would not be productive to bring up your comment "First of all, something that is also generally not widely understood, the "Church" per se is composed of all who believe from Adam and Eve to the Second Advent." at this time. Maybe later?

Thank you for your time,


Response #5:
 

Good to make your acquaintance. I am happy to explain scripture as best I can to any of my brothers and sisters in Christ who are genuinely interested in learning more about the Bible and what it teaches. I do, however, try to follow the biblical advice about getting involved in "needless disputations", especially since this ministry is being conducted in "spare time" remaining over from my full time job as a Classics professor. Trying to answer legitimate e-mails of Christians who are really seeking the truth (as opposed to wanting to find someone to "fence" with) while at the same time continuing to push forward with my work in the Basics and Coming Tribulation series (among other things) makes that policy somewhat essential. Therefore I ask your indulgence from the start if from parts of this reply you find it at all condescending – it is not meant to be; rather it is meant to be both constructive and instructive. Of your three questions, I will take numbers one and three first, since they cover the same ground of textual criticism, and end with question two.

1) The gloss in verse 5 of Rev.20, "the rest of the dead". The Net Bible is on to something when it realizes that this is an "explanation". The problem is that the explanation has been furnished by some later writer and is not part of the original text of scripture. This sort of thing is extremely common in ancient manuscripts of every sort. The canons of copying manuscripts have always been variable, therefore when copying an old text, be it Plato or Aristophanes or the New Testament, it would be difficult in many cases for the copyist to be able to tell for certain whether a surpa- or sub- linear remark or a note in the margins was a later addition or really meant to be part of the text, just left out accidentally and then put back in when noticed. In some classical texts this problem requires great prowess in textual criticism, an extreme ability in ancient Greek, and a near flawless understanding of the genre and surviving manuscript evidence to address effectively (and even then, of course, scholars will often disagree in individual cases). Biblical interpreters are much more blessed in the tools and resources available to them – but to use these effectively still requires sound judgment. One of the more basic principles in such cases would be to identify a) the oldest complete manuscript and also b) the most generally reliable manuscript. These will provide a sort of "default" position from which to compare other readings and other possibilities on the merits. In classical texts, in any number of authors all of the manuscripts are likely to be relatively late (Byzantine era) with all of them reflecting a combined and mixed lineage of text. In the New Testament, however, we are very fortunate to have an extremely old manuscript, the oldest surviving one in fact, which is also at once by far the most reliable witness to the text. That manuscript is the one which the premier text-critic of the 19th cent., C. Tischendorf, discovered and dubbed the "queen of all manuscripts", adjudging it so important that it was assigned the designation "Aleph" (whereas all of the other uncial manuscripts had been identified by English capital letters: A, B, C, etc.). How good is Aleph? In my thirty plus years of working with biblical interpretation I would indeed repeat that it is "hands down the very best of all the manuscripts", and further would say that one should only deviate from its original reading where there are very good reasons for doing so. Of course there are places where Sinaiticus (another name for the ms. given to it because Tischendorf found it in a monastery on Mt. Sinai) is in fact mistaken. Simple copyist errors, homoioteleuton, homoioarcheton and the like (one also finds some esoteric spellings and abbreviations which have led to some confusion). But as a witness to the text, Aleph has no peers.

Case in point is your first question. Just on the face of it, this additional "explanation" is a bit odd. John is not in the habit of providing very many "explanations" of this particular sort and there are problems with what this add-in sentence says for all points of view since it would then be describing a partial resurrection of believers whereas this contradicts all of the many other NT references which tell us about the resurrection of the Church in toto at Christ's return (e.g., 1Thes.4:13-17 cannot reasonably be interpreted any other way). Therefore just on the basis of a minimal knowledge of the process of copying and of the frequency of glosses (i.e., explanations that got put into the margin, then above the verse, then in the verse with sigla, then became thought of as part of the verse) and the fact that this sentence screams out that it is one, it would be suspect to any discriminating critic of the text, even if Sinaiticus did not point the way to the true reading. Thankfully, as I say, we are blessed to have this witness to the text from the 4th cent. A.D. which does not, in fact, yet have this gloss included as part of the original. Since there is no reasonable scenario that can account here for the phrase being left out, we are left to conclude that if this particular witness is both a good and an early one, then the phrase is not there because it was not part of the original text. On the other hand, there is a very good explanation for why it got into the other mss. This was a point of scripture people have always wanted to know more about ("what about the rest of the dead who are not tribulational martyrs?!"), so someone explained it by writing in an explanation, in the margin perhaps, or over the verse, and it thus found its way accidentally into the text (by far not the only place this has happened in manuscripts of the NT!). That it later did so and gained [false] currency is doubly unfortunate here, since the ancient explanation is completely wrong. The theme of Revelation is judgment and the redress of evil, so of course the martyrs are the focus (but that doesn't exclude the resurrection of the other believers who died before the Tribulation being resurrected at this time as well). This is a good example of why adding to the Bible is such a bad idea, even when one thinks one is "helping" to explain something.

2) kata-krino vs. krino: Much of this is also applicable to the above and vice versa. I am not at all surprised that you could not find this reading in your critical GNT. Most people who dabble in the Greek text nowadays are using the "Aland and Aland" fourth edition. It seems to have (and I suppose one might concede the point) a fair amount of information in the apparatus criticus, that is, the textual notes at the bottom of the page. But in fact it has substantially less than the 3rd edit., which has far less than the Nestle Aland edit., which is far from being comprehensive. That is somewhat understandable because, given the vast number of NT mss., to include all the variants would probably take a thirty volume set of books, even with very economical sigla. That is why Classical scholars call these devices colloquially the "junk pile". It is never possible to do complete justice to the tradition of any major author in these devices, no matter how extensive. That is exponentially true of the GNT where we have as the French say "an embarrassment of riches". Even in classical texts, all editors can do is record the most important variant readings of the most critical passages in their judgment. But of course judgments differ. When someone is really an expert in these things, it is not uncommon for them to travel to the libraries or museums where these manuscripts are kept and actually read the mss. for themselves (mentally collating where the texts differ and why). Thankfully in the NT this is not necessary. For example, Kirsop Lake did a photo-facsimile of Aleph in 1911, and a fair sprinkling of research libraries have it (so one does not have to go to the British Museum to see it; it is also available on line: http://www.csntm.org/Manuscripts/ManuscriptViewPage.aspx?id=202). For those who don't wish to read through a non-critical uncial manuscript, there are also commentaries which sometimes give textual info (i.e., Sweete on Revelation is the best if hard to find). And Aleph has also been collated (F.H. Scrivener's 1864 collation is by far the best in my view). The point is that there are very many important readings a person would never know existed merely from reading the Aland and Aland "ap-crit".

So the best ms. does have kata-krino rather than krino, and once again it is easy to see why this might have dropped out of the other versions: 1) there are other simplex forms in context and the trend in such cases is always to assimilation; and *2) assuming (improperly) that the Great White Throne would include believers would make a scribe who is editing as he copies (consciously or unconsciously) drop the "condemn" part and replace with the simple verb for judge.

3) The sea and its dead: This is a question of Greek and of biblical interpretation rather than textual criticism. First, one has to understand what "the sea" means in scripture. While many of us romanticize the sea, in the Bible the sea is nearly always associated with evil and judgment upon evil. In biblical "geography", the sea covers and conceals "death and Hades" along with the Abyss (which is theologically speaking part thereof), so that the phrase "the sea" here is meant as short-hand for what we would call "hell" (or sheol), since the sea is the restraining capstone or "lid", so to speak, upon the entire underworld where the unsaved dead presently reside. Such language is especially to be expected in Revelation where references to the Abyss are quite numerous. You can get all the details at the following link: "The Sea" (in SR#2). "Death and Hades" is used here to define the specifics of precisely who "the dead" are whom the sea presently gives up.

"Death and Hades" are in fact one single place (see the link: "The keys to death and Hades" in CT 1). "Hades", a Greek term corresponding to sheol in Hebrew (i.e., "the grave" or "death" or "the place of the dead", all meaning one and the same thing), is a term used to designate the entire underworld (of three parts: the Abyss where fallen angels are held; Abraham's bosom or paradise where believers went before the cross; and torments or "death" where unbelievers are held; for details and scripture references see the link: "The Holy Place" in CT 2B). And it is "the sea" which covers them all. The fact that these individuals are "dead" and are being kept in "death-and Hades" is a further indication of what we have been saying. For our God is the God of the living, not the dead, and we exit this life for eternal life, not death (cf. Jesus' argument based on precisely this principle: Matt.22:29-32).

Here is how I would translate/explain this part of Revelation 20:13:

"and the sea gave up the dead who were in it, [that is] even death-and-Hades gave up the dead that were in them/it."

This particular language makes it crystal clear that all of the unbelievers covered by the sea, that is, all who are in torments below, have indeed at this point in Revelation 20 been resurrected and will now stand trial for their lack of faith. This is the last judgment of all judgments, the Great White Throne.

I hope that you find the above helpful. I am certainly happy to provide any further explanations that might be of assistance in your search for the truth. Ultimately and initially, this is not about individuals or egos but about the truth of the Word of God. I want to know the truth and I rejoice in all my fellow believers who have likewise come to understand that that is the fundamental thing of our Christian way of life, the sine qua non that provides the bedrock and foundation for everything Jesus would have us do in this life.

In Him who is the only truth, the only life, and the only way, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill


Question #6:

Bob,

A couple of things first, good to meet you also and no I did not take your comments as condescending at all. I was taken by surprise at the time you invested in presenting the TC side of your position. That's funny because that is how I got interested in Greek. I kept reading "authorities" and "experts" telling me that the bible I was holding in my hands was not a reliable translation and that it takes very smart men pouring over all the extant manuscripts to put together what God has let to the four winds. This was back in the early 90's. Around 93 to 95 I took Greek for two years (I had been studying Greek on my own for a couple of years but was discouraged in not knowing what I did not know). I have been studying the Greek NT ever since. Am I an "expert"? Nope. But at least I now know when someone is not telling me the truth. I even know when someone is not telling me "all" the truth, which happens quite often.

Bob, I have no interest in "fencing". Where I come from fencing is what you do to keep the livestock in the barnlot. I would only ask the same for my comments as you do for yours, that they be considered constructive and instructive. I don't think any of us are beyond learning. I do realize that as a Classics professor TC is more of an "up front" and daily discipline that you would deal with than I would, but as Christians studying the word of God I don't think TC has nearly as much importance. TC (textual criticism) has to fit my doctrinal paradigm, not the other way around. I'm afraid that is the difference between you and I.

Although I don't believe in an inerrant translation I do believe that the bible in my hands IS the word of God, not contains the word of God but is the word of God. Bob, I don't think you believe that. In fact, you said that your bible "screams" that its riddled with errors. I'm not a Ruckmanite and although I have attended a Dean Burgeon Society meeting I don't associate myself with them either. I hold to the TR being the more original manuscripts and have never heard a good presentation as why I should believe that the oldest is the best (manuscripts). Enough of what I believe about TC. Please consider my comments.

Back to our three issues. Saying that the Net Bible at Rev. 20:5 is epexegetical or "explaining" something is one thing. What you said is that "is a latter addition and not part of the original text". That is something the Net Bible did not say. Bob, scribes did make mistakes, accidental and intentional but other scribes compared manuscripts and understood what was blatant error. Scribes also did not use faulty manuscripts to copy from. That is why Tischendorf found Sinaticus in the trash can and why they found Vaticanus stuck in a dusty library and had not been used for many years. They "may" be old but that is all they are. Old has nothing to do with being good.

Bob, you just can't say, "These are very clearly unbelievers only". Verse 12 tells us that "the dead" are made to stand before the throne (resurrected). "The dead" is those who died during the millennial reign of Christ. That includes both saved and unsaved people. There is a resurrection before the millennium and a resurrection after the millennium. Only the tribulation saints are said to be in the resurrection prior to the millennial reign. Those resurrected after the millennium must include both (all those that died) saved and lost.

Finally I would like you to consider your sea = hell/Hades interpretation. Bob, below is your statement that the sea and Hades are the same.

"This equating the sea with the nether-world buried beneath it helps to explain the difficult passage in Revelation where we are told that at the final judgment, "the sea will give up her dead" (Revelation 20:13). When John immediately adds to this statement that "death and Hades will give up their dead", he is merely explaining that in prophetic terms there is virtually no difference between the sea on the one hand and death and Hades on the other (a hendiadys for one single place: torments or hell)."

Below are all the verses in Revelation with "sea". Let's see how your paradigm works.

Revelation 4:6

And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.

I'm not going to go into much detail, just glossy statements. Does the sea here represent hell? Is Hades "like unto crystal"?

Revelation 5:13

And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

John specifically divides "creatures" into four (4) groups/places, the sea being separate from "under the earth". This verse definitely does not fit your paradigm.

Revelation 7:1

And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.

What about here, bob? Sea mean hell? No, sea means sea. If sea means hell, what does tree or earth mean?

Revelation 7:2

And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,

Sea = hell? Were the angels given power to hurt hell or the sea? Did those angels turn the water of the sea to blood or turn hell into blood?

Revelation 7:3

Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.

Here again, bob, if sea means hell what do earth and trees mean.

Revelation 8:8

And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;

So, a great mountain burning with fire was cast into hell? A third part of hell became blood?

Revelation 8:9

And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.

Bob, do we need to look any further? Sea does not = hell in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 10:2

And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,

Did He set His foot on hell or the sea?

Revelation 10:5

And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven,

Still, no support anywhere for sea = hell.

Revelation 10:6

And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:

Bob, sea can not possibly be equated with hell/Hades here. Not only are heaven, earth, and sea separated things created on separate days of creation, hell was NOT created. Hell was "prepared" for satan and his angels (Matt 25:41). There is no support for your sea = hell in Revelation.

Revelation 10:8

And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.

Over and over this fact is presented.

Revelation 12:12

Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

The text says, woe (to) the earth and the sea. This is exactly what should be proclaimed because of what happens during the great tribulation. Earth and sea is destroyed with a third of the sea being turned into blood and those things living in it dying.

Revelation 13:1

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

Sand of the sea? Are there beaches in hell?

Revelation 14:7

Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

Remember, the sea was created on the third day. When was Hades "created"? It wasn't. I was prepared.

Revelation 15:2

And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.

The "sea" is a symbol of humanity more than anything else in Revelation when it is used figuratively. Not Hades.

Revelation 16:3

And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.

This just goes on and on. Sea does not = Hades. The second angel did not pour his vial on Hades. He poured it on the literal sea and "it", the sea, became as the blood of a dead man.

Revelation 18:17

For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,

Any comment needed here?

Revelation 18:19

And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.

Any comment needed here?

Revelation 18:21

And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.

This language may be figurative but that figurative language does not support "sea" being equivalent to Hades.

Revelation 20:8

And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

Here again, the language may be figurative but that figurative language does not suggest "sea" equals Hades but sea is the natural sea.

Revelation 20:13

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

Finally, we come to your keystone verse. NONE of the previously mentioned verses in Revelation had your "sea = Hades" meaning, so what is your "screaming" facts? Its a textual variant from a manuscript that was saved from the trash can, which no one has access to today, that not even the textual critics thought was worthy to place into the text and no bible has ever been translated from. I'm sorry, bob but you have failed miserably in proving your point.

Revelation 21:1

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

I'm sure you see "sea = Hades" shining through here but I'm afraid I don't. I don't think the new heaven and earth will have any seas. I think its that simple.

Bob, I just wanted to make three (3) comments and I think that they were justified. 1) Your statement ""the rest of the dead", is a latter addition and not part of the original text " is just conjecture. You couldn't prove it if your life depended upon it. 2) The resurrection at the great white throne judgment must contain both saved and lost. Those made to stand before the great white throne must be saved and lost. That is what verse 12 says. Also considering that your "sea = Hades" interpretation has no support in the book of Revelation, I'd say your not skating on thin ice. Your walking on water. 3) The saved and lost may not be judged upon the same basis at the GWTJ but to say that this judgment is a condemnation is something that no printed bible has ever said. That variant has always been rejected, that is, until you brought it up.

Sorry we can't agree but I hope you can at least see why I don't agree with you. Bob, we disagree on so many things (Ecclesiology, Eschatology, Bibliology) I'm not sure this discussion is going in any positive direction. I am confident you are an honest man and are seeking to do God's will for your life. Therefore I can say it's been good to meet you and I'll see AT the PAROUSIA.


Response #6:
 

I appreciate your closing comments. I'm not sure we're as far apart as you seem to think we are. I do feel the need, however, to respond briefly since in my view these are very important issues, and I'd like to clear up what I feel may be some confusion on your part about what I actually believe.

(1) I am a bit distraught by your comment that you feel "I don't think the Bible is the Word of God" (!?!). I am not sure how you could have gotten that impression from any of the links provided or anything in my e-mail. The proposition that the Bible is God's undiluted Word is the entire basis for this ministry (not to mention my life).

Let me address the text-critical question briefly as you seem to base this offensive notion in part on the fact that I do not believe that the Textus Receptus is identical (or nearly identical) to the original autograph of the New Testament as penned by the apostles. But the TR is not a manuscript at all.  The TR is in fact only a man-made, composite text, put together just like Nestle-Aland.  Moreover, the TR was based on several inferior Byzantine era texts (D and R prominently) as well as several previous critical editions of the NT. And Nestle-Aland or Aland-Aland or whatever you are using is different from TR. TR has its defenders these days, mostly people who wish to support the KJV translation as essentially infallible (even though this too of course has several iterations). However, it is the Bible which is infallible, not any particular translation of it or any particular edition of the Greek or Hebrew/Aramaic text. The KJV was translated by a large group of scholars who, if they were working today, would certainly not consign Aleph, B, and C to the junkpile without a hearing. It is true, what you say, that just because these mss. are old doesn't make them good. But it doesn't take decades of experience in textual criticism to realize that manuscripts which are more ancient than the ones TR used by seven or eight hundred years ought at least to be considered. That is what I do. I weigh the evidence, and try to do so carefully and judiciously. The only alternative is to ignore the evidence and pretend it doesn't exist.

You may not agree with my opinion, but whatever text or translation you use as the basis for your opinion (unless you are proposing a reading that is not supported by any manuscript – something I personally am loath ever to do), then you too are necessarily relying on someone else's judgment, be it the editor of your edition or the scribe who penned the manuscript you do prefer or the person/group who translated the English version you use. If it is an editor, then he/she/they have made choices on what basis you can only guess. If it is a manuscript, then, unless you have the manuscript itself, you are relying on some transcriber's best efforts to reproduce the ms. - but all the mss. have notes and corrections everywhere. Which was a contemporaneous correction? There are 3 or 4 or 5 hands of correctors - which are right or wrong and when and how? On what basis was the ms. corrected? Is the corrector using a better or worse text? Was it the scribe himself who scribbled something out? If it is a translation we are discussing, then in addition to all the above you are also relying on the interpretive judgment of the (usually) anonymous translators – for all translations are interpretations since the translators have to decide "what it means" in order to render the text into English (or any other language). I understand the desire to have a simple solution, but the fact is that there is no easy shortcut to establishing precisely what the true text of the Word of God is in many cases, and no way to avoid making decisions about this for which we as interpreters of the Word are responsible to God. Abdicating this decision to someone else is a decision in and of itself.

You are certainly free to place your faith in Textus Receptus, but I have a problem with the basis for your choice. You say that "doctrinal" guidance has informed your opinion. But to me, that puts the cart before the horse, and here we have a sizable disagreement. For my theology flows from the scripture, not the other way around. There are plenty of groups out there who make a practice of picking and choosing what readings/texts they prefer on the basis of the theological axes they have to grind. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Of course our (one would hope) orthodox understanding of scripture as a whole should guide our interpretation (as it has mine above), but in places where we are not sure of the precise interpretation ahead of time, shouldn't we let scripture speak to us as it truly is, whatever it truly is, and have scripture form our views of the context, rather than telling scripture what it can or cannot say (i.e., what readings must be "correct") based merely upon our preconceived notions? First find out what the text really is, as best you can, then find out what it really means in the original language, then interpret it based upon everything else the Bible has to say. That is the only safe course, the only orthodox course. You are certainly free to prefer TR to Sinaiticus, but to accept TR uncritically makes no sense to me when one considers what it is, namely, a text with many foibles, not the original scriptures, and not even a manuscript in its own right but rather an editorial hodgepodge. For example, TR includes Mark 16:14-20. Do you consider that passage as a legitimate part of scripture?

(2) On the issue of the resurrection, here we are actually much closer than you seem to realize. We both hold to a post-Tribulation pre-millennial rapture, and a resurrection of all millennial believers at the completion of the millennium (and the number of people out there who see the truth of this are not terribly numerous!). Where I disagree is that I do not find that resurrection in Rev.20 - not that the Spirit couldn't have put it there, only that He didn't for reasons suggested before regarding the theme of judgment – and the description is Rev.20 is one that reeks of judgment: 1) the fact that these individuals in Rev.20 are described as "the dead" means they are unlikely to be believers (Matt.22:29-32), especially since this group is an undifferentiated mass (but the biblical practice in places where the two groups really are combined is to show the difference between believers and unbelievers: cf. "tares and wheat"; "wheat and chaff", "taken and left", "sheep and goat" or "dead in Christ" vs. merely "dead"); 2) also, of course, if any of these people were believers, they would not be coming from below the earth (and all of these people come from below the earth). Whether those believers who die in the millennium will go to heaven as we do now should they die before the end, or get to be with Christ in the millennial Jerusalem (my supposition), at present I cannot say. But I can say that for them to go to death-and-Hades would certainly be beyond odd (and there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that this is so). Jesus liberated those believers who were held there pending His victory on the cross and not allowed into heaven before that the ascension confirmed that victory – but that victory is just as efficacious for millennial believers as it is for us (Eph.4:7-10); 3) the judgment of believers is entirely one relating to rewards with all of our foul deed burned up because of Christ's sacrifice (1Cor.3:12-15). We are saved so that the book of life does not need to be checked in our case to confirm that we are still in there. Opening up the book of life merely suggests here that these people are not in it. Thus, everything about this judgment speaks of demonstrating just condemnation, while, on the other hand, there is nothing here about rewards.

(3) Finally, on the sea, forgive me but I think you are missing my point entirely. To make a long story short, the sea is not hell-Hades-death, but it represents hell-Hades-death in biblical expression, because, in terms of theological geography it covers them (see the linked illustration: "The Waters Above and Below"). That is to say, the sea stands for hell, death and Hades in Rev.20, calls them to mind, is a metaphor for them, etc., because the sea covers them and is in part the divine restraint upon them. From the fact that the "deep", the tehom, was in divine judgment placed upon and covered the entire earth and all the evil Satan wrought upon it in Genesis 1:2, to the fact that after all evil is burned out of the universe we have "no more sea" (Rev.21:1), we find this principle of the sea as a place associated with evil confirmed from the beginning of scripture to the end. The sea is the instrument of judgment on Pharaoh, covering him and his hordes, the place from which beast rises in Revelation 13:1, the instrument of destroying and covering the wicked antediluvian civilization, etc., etc. (more info at the link: "The Sea"). Clearly, there are plenty of places in the Bible where the sea is not invoked to make that point (as in much of the laundry list you provide above). But since in Rev.20 we are clearly not talking about the literal sea (these dead are of course in hell, not the sea per se), and since there is no reason to bring up the sea at all except that it is indeed the lid which in biblical geography covers over hell-Hades-death, we are clearly to understand "sea" here in that very common biblical sense of being the evil-restraining "cover" on the underworld where the unsaved dead reside.

I appreciate your desire to know the whole truth of the Word of God. That is also my desire. I firmly believe that every child of God who genuinely makes it his/her priority to draw closer to the Lord through the scriptures (the only way to do it), will inevitably and inexorably be drawn closer to the truth as well. My prayer is that both you and I will continue to make our way to the center of this circle, no matter how any revolutions it may take.

Hope to see you in the center soon.

In Him who is the truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.


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