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Will those in Hades be able to see Christ's return?

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Question:  I have a question about the punishment visited upon those who worship the beast in Revelation 14:9-10 ("he [the beast-worshiper] will be tormented in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb"), and also what Jesus says to Caiaphas in Matthew 26:64 ("You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One"). Does this first verse mean that those who are tormented will see the angels and the Lord Jesus, and will the saints see these people? Also, does this second verse mean that Caiaphas will see the Lord Jesus at his second coming?

Response:  On the first passage, Revelation 14:9-10, the initial description here is not a picture of the final state of those who worship the beast (and so have participated in the persecution of believers as a result). These two verses are fulfilled at the glorious return of our Lord ("in the presence of" = "when Jesus Christ returns to earth with all the armies of heaven"). For at the Second Advent He will redress all the wrongs in context here (the persecution of believers in particular), requiting with fire and brimstone those who have opposed Him, worshiped the devil, and persecuted His Church so severely. This is what Paul is talking about in 2nd Thessalonians 1:6-9:

... since indeed it is just for God to repay with tribulation those who are subjecting you to tribulation, and to give you who are being distressed [lit., "tribulated"] relief along with us at the revelation [lit., "apocalypse"] of our Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels. Wreaking vengeance in a flame of fire upon those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus - these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power.
2nd Thessalonians 1:6-9

So the fire and torments mentioned in Revelation 14:9-10 are first and foremost the fire of judgment upon God's enemies still alive on earth at Christ's return (for Second Advent's fiery judgment see also Matt.3:11-12; cf. the "fire and brimstone" rained on Sodom and Gomorrah). That the mention of angels along with the Lamb in Revelation 14:9-10 is also a Second Advent reference can also be seen from the 2nd Thessalonians 1:6-9 quoted above, as well as from the other passage you ask about, Matthew 26:64.

It should also be noted in regard to the 2nd Thessalonians passage that the words "away from the presence of the Lord" indicate that the final state of all unbelievers, the "lake of fire", will be far removed from our Lord's presence in the eternal state, rather than directly before Him (as a mis-reading of Revelation 14:9-10 has led some to believe - compare Matt.26:46 where the damned also "go away into eternal punishment").

The verse which follows the first passage you ask about, Revelation 14:11, does take us further along the divine time-line, past the fiery judgment of the Second Advent, past the torments of Hades, and all the way to the lake of fire beyond: beast worshipers are going to be "tormented" (i.e., "blasted off the earth and into torments/Hades") at the Lamb's return with the legions of heaven (the meaning of "in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb"), and there in torments they will stay until they are judged at the end of time and thrown into the lake of fire.

In other words, these three verses give us a somewhat compacted, poetic and inspired way to say "beast worshipers will be expunged from the earth by fire and into fire, and in that fire they will stay forever" (i.e., the fiery judgment of the Second Advent which places them into the fiery torments of Hades and which will end without question following the last judgment in their consignment to the final place of the reprobate, the "lake of fire").

As to whether these unsaved persons will be visible in the future, the phrase "away from the presence of the Lord" in the 2Thes.1:6-9 passage above, and the Matt.26:46 reference to their going "away into eternal punishment" argue for separation. But it is true that ...

    1) Lk.16:19-31 tells us that those in torments (Hades) could be seen by those in the now vacant paradise of Abraham's bosom, and ...

    2) Is.66:22-24, which anticipates the eternal state, does seem to be saying that the unsaved will be visible as an object of repulsion (cf. Is.14:9-11 where the dead can "see" antichrist/Satan coming down; and cf. those "outside" in Rev.22:15 who must be explained in this sense - compare Rev.21:8).

Therefore I would interpret that, yes, they are visible, but they are "outside" the place where we will have our eternal lives, and will not be a primary focus of interest or concern (nor care, nor worry, nor regret: Rev.21:4).

On Matthew 26:64, the verb here is in the plural ("You all will see the Son of Man"). In light of Jesus' prediction that "this generation (i.e., of unbelief) will not pass away" until the events of the end times including the Second Advent should become a reality (Matt.24:34), we should apply these words not only to Caiaphas himself or even just those present at the time of our Lord's statement. It is Caiaphas' entire "spiritual seed" who are meant, namely, all who refuse to accept Christ before His glorious return, whether they be living or dead at that future time. The time will come when all will realize that Christ is Lord - to Him every knee will bow (Phil.2:10; cf. Is.45:23; Rom.4:11), and by Him all will be judged (Matt.25:31-46; Jn.5:22-29; Rev.20:11-15). In Matthew 26:64, our Lord is quoting from Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13. Both of these passages describe the Son of Man glorified and seated in state with the Father. The words "coming with clouds" can, it is true, be taken of the Second Advent, but in the Daniel passage all the future events following our Lord's ascension and session are conflated into one powerful whole (down to the end of time: "His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will never pass away"). So these words are true from every perspective. Had our Lord returned while Caiaphas and his cohorts (and their contemporary generation of unbelievers) yet lived, they would indeed have seen while yet in this flesh our Lord's glorious return (cf. Zech.12:10; Rev.1:7). As it is, currently residing in torments, they will see Him in His glory "sitting at the right hand of Power" when they are made to answer for their rejection of Him at the resurrection of the unrighteous (Matt.25:31-46; Jn.5:22-29; Rev.20:11-15).

Scripture does not provide many details that specifically relate to whether those currently in torments can "see" what is transpiring on the earth. Given the Is.14:9-11 passage mentioned above, and the fact that history is God's way of completely refuting the wrong-thinking of all who choose against Him, there is no question but that, as with the angels, there is intense interest in Hades regarding the progress of the Plan of God (cf. 1Cor.11:10; Heb.12:1; 1Pet.3:19). The last passage cited, 1st Peter 3:19, seems to indicate that the "spirits in prison", fallen angels sequestered in Hades, were not, in fact, aware of our Lord's victory on the cross until He proclaimed it to them (and we should probably assume that the same was and will continue to be true of all unbelieving human beings in Hades as well).

Of this we can be sure: our God is watching us and watching over us at all times, and we shall see Him and our Lord in all their glory from the time of our reunion with our blessed Savior to forever and forever.

Please also see the following links:

The Second Advent

The Last Judgment

The Lake of Fire

Yours in Him who is our life and our love, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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