TBU: The Bible Unpacked: In-Depth Edition

I.  Jesus Christ’s Return and the Judgment

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Chapter 15  Part I

Jesus Christ’s Return and the Judgment

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The history of the world as we know it will culminate in Jesus Christ’s dramatic and awesome return. Associated with this is God’s final judgment of all people, through Jesus Christ, in which the eternal destiny of each person will be pronounced.

Note that the section cross-referenced above also deals with events of the end times – in its case, events that precede Jesus Christ’s second coming. As such it is a further aspect of the biblical teachings that are often referred to as “The Last Things”.

Prologue: Judgments Preceding Jesus Christ’s Return

The passages in this section are largely extracts from visions that the apostle John received. Bear in mind that they are from Revelation, chapters 6-18, which contain apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature is prophetic and largely symbolic. It mostly speaks of events of the end times. Many of these events involve great destruction, but show God’s emphatic control and justice. As such apocalyptic literature provides great encouragement to God’s people.

Commentators differ in their interpretation of a number of aspects of the three series of seven judgments below. Such points of difference include: to what extent each of the judgments are symbolic or literal; the timing of the judgments; and whether the three sets describe the same events, although probably most commentators think that they do not even though there are parallels.

The first series of judgments: The seven seals

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Quite possibly the seven seals represent events leading up to the end of the age, although it is open to conjecture as to whether these take place just prior to the end or over a longer period. The latter two sets of judgments certainly appear to be among the events of the end of the age, with the bowl judgments – the most severe – taking place immediately prior to Jesus Christ’s return.

Note that there are parallels between the seals and the signs of the end times that Jesus spoke of (Matt 24:1-35; Mark 13:1-31; Luke 21:5-33) – as well as with the later two more harsh series of judgments.

Rev 6:1-8  Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer. 3When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword. 5When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. 6And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quarts of wheat for a denarius,t and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!” 7When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. ▤ 

s Greek choinix, a dry measure equal to about a quart

t A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer

There is debate over the identity of the rider on the white horse (v. 2), with both Jesus Christ (on his return) and the antichrist among the suggestions. The description may however simply be portraying increased attempts at conquest, with the associated warfare possibly signified by the following judgment (vv. 3-4). The pair of scales in the hand of the third horseman (v. 5) is explained in v. 6, which appears to point to inflated food prices and famine.

Rev 6:12-14  When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. ▤ 

As alluded to earlier, the physical terminology describing judgments in these subsections may in fact be symbolic. If it is meant to be taken literally, this would appear to be speaking of the devastation associated with “the day of the Lord” and God’s final judgment on the wicked.

  • The sealing of God’s people, protecting them from following judgments:

Rev 7:1-4  After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servantsu of our God on their foreheads.” 4And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: … ▤ 

u Greek bondservants

The tribes “of the sons of Israel” – here sealed for protection against forthcoming judgments – may be symbolic of the whole church as the new, spiritual Israel. Alternatively actual Jewish believers may be in view.

The second series of judgments: The seven trumpets

Rev 8:1-2  When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. ▤ 

Rev 8:7-13  The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. 8The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. 9A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. 10The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11The name of the star is Wormwood.v A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter. 12The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night. 13Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!” ▤ 

v Wormwood is the name of a plant and of the bitter-tasting extract derived from it

Rev 9:1-6  And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.w 2He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. 3Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. 4They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. ▤ 

w Greek the abyss; also verses 2, 11

The “star” (v. 1) appears to depict an angel, in view of what it does (v. 2).

Rev 9:13-18  Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. 16The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. 17And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphirex and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. ▤ 

x Greek hyacinth

The four angels (vv. 14-15) apparently control the mounted troops (vv. 16-17), who implement the three devastating plagues (v. 18). The mounted troops may be demonic – which is possibly also the case with the four angels who were “bound” (v. 14).

  • The seventh trumpet acclaiming the advent of God’s kingdom:

Rev 11:15, 19  Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” ▤ 19Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings,y peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. ▤ 

y Or voices, or sounds

Verse 19 – with the appearance of “the ark of his covenant” and the awesome signs – is possibly symbolically affirming the advent of God’s consummated kingdom along with the manifestation of God’s presence and the fulfillment of his covenant promises to his people.

The third series of judgments: The seven bowls

Rev 15:1, 5-8  Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished. ▤ 5After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tentz of witness in heaven was opened, 6and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. 7And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, 8and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. ▤ 

z Or tabernacle

Some commentators raise the possibility that the fact that “no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues … were finished” (v. 8) may indicate that the time for intercession will have passed; the judgments must take place.

Rev 16:1-4, 8-11  Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” 2So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. 3The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea. 4The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. ▤ 8The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. 9They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they curseda the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. 10The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. ▤ 

a Greek blasphemed; also verses 11, 21

The “throne of the beast” (v. 10) appears to refer to the heart of the authority of the first beast – often thought to be a final antichrist. The “darkness” into which his kingdom was plunged, may not be physical darkness. It quite possibly depicts major problems besetting the beast’s reign with its false worship.

Rev 16:12-16  The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 15(“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) 16And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. ▤ 

The “dragon” (v. 13) is Satan. Likely the “three unclean spirits like frogs” (v. 13) will perform supposedly miraculous signs leading world rulers to believe they can successfully and/or ought to fight against people or forces of God, not realizing that they will be overwhelmed by the Messiah and his forces. For further comment on this passage see On Jesus Christ’s return evil powers will be crushed.

Rev 16:17-21  The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings,b peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21And great hailstones, about one hundred poundsc each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe. ▤ 

b Or voices, or sounds

c Greek a talent in weight

The guilt and consequent judgment of “Babylon the Great”

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There are differing views as to what Babylon represents in Revelation. The most prominent are: Rome, with its decadence and oppression of Christians; an actual rebuilt city of Babylon, characterized by the power and ungodliness of the original; and all worldly political and religious opposition to the true God.

Note that Revelation 16:17-21 in the previous subsection, speaks of “Babylon the Great” suffering the judgment of the seventh bowl.

Rev 17:1-6, 15-18  Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, 2with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” 3And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 4The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. 5And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” 6And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.d When I saw her, I marveled greatly. ▤ 15And the angele said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. 16And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.” ▤ 

d Greek the witnesses to Jesus

e Greek he

The beast (vv. 3, 16) is probably the same as the one in the preceding chapters – quite possibly a final antichrist. The ruining of the prostitute by the beast and the ten horns shows division amongst the forces of evil. It also illustrates God’s power over evil, by his using evil forces to accomplish his purposes (v. 17).

Rev 18:1-10  After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. 2And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast. 3For all nations have drunkf the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” 4Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; 5for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed. 7As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’ 8For this reason her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.” 9And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. 10They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.” ▤ 

f Some manuscripts fallen by

Note that earlier in 14:8 an angel uses similar terminology to v. 2 in prophesying Babylon’s fall: ‘Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”’

Rev 18:20-24  Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” 21Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more; 22and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, 23and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. 24And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” ▤ 

Rev 19:1-3  After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”g 3Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” ▤ 

g Greek bondservants; also verse 5

Pray for persecuted Christians

The Timing of Jesus Christ’s Return

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God has set times for the end of the age and related events . . .

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Dan 11:35  … and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time. ▤ 

Dan 12:4, 9  But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” ▤ 9He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. ▤ 

The expression “the time of the end” (vv. 4, 9) may have in view an appointed time, hence the inclusion of these verses in this subsection. Note that the book contained prophecies of events of the end time.

Rev 1:3  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. ▤ 

This suggests that there are times set by God for events of the end times prophesied in Revelation (cf. Rev 9:15 ).

Rev 9:15  So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. ▤ 

Dan 9:27  And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week,h and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator. ▤ 

h Or seven; twice in this verse

A number of commentators consider that the antichrist of the end of the age is most likely in view here – particularly if the one in view in the first sentence is involved in what is described in the second sentence. The “week” (cf. vv. 25-26) or “seven” (cf. text note) denotes a period of time, sometimes interpreted as seven years (cf. AMP, GNT, NCV). This verse shows that the times of key activities of the identity in the first sentence have been predetermined by God – as has the end of “the desolator” in the second sentence.

. . . God has set times for Jesus Christ’s return and subsequent events

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Matt 24:36-37  But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,i but the Father only. 37For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. ▤ 

i Some manuscripts omit nor the Son

In v. 36, “that day” most likely refers to the day of Jesus Christ’s return (v. 37). As such, the verse indicates that God has set a time for it.

1Cor 7:29a  This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. ▤ 

1Tim 6:14-15  … to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, … ▤ 

Here “proper time” probably refers to an appointed time for Jesus Christ’s return – a time “that God has already decided” (CEV).

Acts 1:6-7  So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. ▤ 

The disciples’ question implies that God would restore Israel’s kingdom through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ reply indicates that God had set a time for this – presumably following Jesus’ return – and times for other events of the end. (Regarding Israel’s restored kingdom or state, see God’s Plans for Israel.)

Acts 3:20-21  … that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. ▤ 

Acts 17:31  … because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. ▤ 

Matt 8:29  And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” ▤ 

The term “the time” may well speak of an “appointed time” (NIV®, NLT). As such the second question indicates that God has appointed a future time for the judgment and punishment of demons – as he has for judgment of all the world (cf. Acts 17:31 ).

Hab 2:3  For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. ▤ 

Initially this referred to the destruction of Babylon in 539 B.C. In Hebrews 10:37 the writer adapted the second statement of this verse to Jesus Christ’s return – ‘For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay …’ In doing this the writer of Hebrews may well have viewed the first part of the verse to likewise apply to Jesus Christ’s return and “the end” of the age. If this is the case, then one could infer that it alludes to an “appointed time” for Christ’s return.

  • God has determined the length of the tribulation of the end times:

Mark 13:20  And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. ▤ 

The reference here is to God shortening the time of the tribulation of the end days. Arguably this suggests that God has determined the length of other such events of the end times.

Jesus Christ’s return will be at an unexpected time, while people are living as usual

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2Pet 3:3-4, 10a  … knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” ▤ 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief … ▤ 

1Thes 5:1-3  Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers,j you have no need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. ▤ 

j Or brothers and sisters; also verses 4, 12, 14, 25, 26, 27

Matt 24:37-41  For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. ▤ 

The separation of the pairs of people in vv. 40-41 is indicative of the suddenness of Jesus Christ’s return. In speaking of people being “taken”, this may well be referring to a rapture – believers being taken away to be with Jesus Christ, with unbelieving partners being left behind to face a perilous future and/or judgment. Alternatively the verses could be speaking of one being taken in judgment – paralleling the flood coming and taking people away (v. 39a) – while the other is spared.

Luke 17:28-30  Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. ▤ 

  • No one knows when Jesus Christ’s return will be, except God:

Mark 13:32-33  But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Be on guard, keep awake.k For you do not know when the time will come. ▤ 

k Some manuscripts add and pray

Jesus Christ’s return will be preceded by distressful events

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Matt 24:3-14  As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” 4And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 9“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10And then many will fall awayl and betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. ▤ 

l Or stumble

In v. 8 “birth pains” denotes the time of distress which leads into – or “gives birth” to – the advent of the Messiah and what will follow. Note that in addition to the distressful events, Christ’s return will be preceded by the gospel reaching all nations (v. 14).

Luke 21:9-11  And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. ▤ 

This is from Luke’s parallel passage to Matthew 24 immediately above. In addition to what is mentioned there, note that this speaks of “tumults” along with war (v. 9), “great” earthquakes and “pestilences” along with famines (v. 11a) and “terrors and great signs from heaven” (v. 11b). The “tumults” may involve revolutions (cf. GNT, NIV). (The “great signs from heaven” are further discussed below in the following subsection.)

2Thes 2:1-10  Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,m 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessnessn is revealed, the son of destruction,o 4who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. ▤ 

m Or brothers and sisters; also verses 13, 15

n Some manuscripts sin

o Greek the son of perdition (a Hebrew idiom)

This “man of lawlessness” (v. 3) appears to be a final antichrist, quite possibly the first beast of Revelation 13. Presumably he will be the prime instigator of this momentous “rebellion” (v. 3) against God. There are a number of theories as to who or what is “restraining him now” (vv. 6-7) – including the Holy Spirit, and the archangel Michael.

Dan 9:26b  And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Itsp end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. ▤ 

p Or His

This may be speaking of widespread war and desolations continuing, even increasing, until the end of the age – hence the verse’s inclusion here. Alternatively, Jerusalem may be view, in particular her “end” or destruction at the hand of the Romans in A.D. 70, which is likely the subject of the first sentence.

Awesome cosmic events will occur just prior to Jesus Christ’s return

See also:

Matt 24:29-30  Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. ▤ 

Luke 21:25-26  And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. ▤ 

As the moon affects the tides, “the roaring of the sea and the waves” (v. 25b) may well be a reflection of the lunar and other cosmological changes spoken of here.

Acts 2:19-20  And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. ▤ 

Here “the day of the Lord” definitely refers to Jesus Christ’s return. However, it is not clear how Peter envisaged the “signs on the earth below” mentioned in quoting this prophecy of Joel. The “blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke” (v. 19) could be part of the cosmological wonders that God will show as a precursor to his impending judgment. The devastating effects of warfare are another possibility.

Rev 6:12-17  When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slaveq and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” ▤ 

q Or servant; Greek bondservant

There is debate as to whether this passage is literal or figurative. The terminology is similar to descriptions above of the cosmological events immediately preceding Jesus Christ’s coming and so may in fact be speaking of this, as also suggested by v. 17 saying that “the great day of their wrath has come”. However as it is part of the first of the three series of seven judgments of the end times, Christ’s return and the climax of God’s judgment may not be in view.

Jesus Christ’s return is spoken of as being imminent

Obviously as these verses were written nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ’s return was not near in terms of our perception of time. One explanation of this is that as with the Lord “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2Pet 3:8 ), Christ’s return can be spoken of in a sense as “near” from any point in time. Another view is that in some of these verses at least, the writers are asserting the certainty of Christ’s return rather than its nearness in time.

1Cor 7:29a  This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. ▤ 

Phil 4:5  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; … ▤ 

Heb 10:25, 37  … not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ▤ 37For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; … ▤ 

James 5:8-9  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. ▤ 

As with v. 8b, v. 9b is referring to Jesus Christ and his impending entry or return to the world.

1Pet 4:7  The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. ▤ 

1Jn 2:18  Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. ▤ 

Rev 22:7, 10, 12, 20  “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” ▤ 10And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. ▤ 12“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. ▤ 20He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! ▤ 

Matt 16:28  Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. ▤ 

Especially with the clear reference to his return in the preceding verse (cf. v. 27), it would appear on face value that Jesus was speaking of his second coming occurring in the lifetime of some of those who there with him. But as this obviously did not happen, generally commentators do not consider that “coming” is here referring to Christ’s second coming. Although many see this verse as alluding to his subsequent transfiguration (cf. 17:1-8), it possibly refers instead to Jesus Christ’s resurrection and the ensuing phase of the kingdom.

  • Insights regarding God’s apparent slowness:

2Pet 3:8-9  But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,r not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ▤ 

r Some manuscripts on your account

Note: The time of Jesus Christ’s return is referred to as “the day of the Lord”

See also:

The phrase “the day of the Lord” alludes to the OT usage of the phrase “the day of the Lord”. The latter is a phrase with eschatological connotations, speaking of God’s decisive intervention to crush the wicked and enforce his rule.

1Cor 5:5  … you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.s ▤ 

s Some manuscripts add Jesus

1Thes 5:2  For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. ▤ 

2 Peter 3:10a similarly says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.”

2Thes 2:2  … not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. ▤ 

1Cor 1:8  … who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. ▤ 

This and the following references do not use the exact term “the day of the Lord”, but they do similarly make reference to the “day” of Christ’s return.

2Cor 1:14  … just as you did partially acknowledge us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you. ▤ 

Phil 1:6, 9-10  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. ▤ 9And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, … ▤ 

Phil 2:16  … holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. ▤ 

Heb 10:25  … not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ▤ 

Eph 4:30  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Jesus Christ’s Return

See also:

Jesus Christ will return with his angels

See also:

Matt 16:27  For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. ▤ 

1Thes 3:13  … so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. ▤ 

Here “saints” probably is at least inclusive of angels, quite possibly referring also to Christians who have died. See also the comment on Rev 19:14 below.

2Thes 1:7  … and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels … ▤ 

Jude 1:14  It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, … ▤ 

Rev 19:14  And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. ▤ 

Note that rather then simply referring to angelic hosts, some commentators consider that the “armies of heaven” following Christ may be speaking of believers, or at least be inclusive of them – particularly with the description of them being dressed “in fine linen” which is what believers had been given to wear in v. 8.

1Thes 4:16  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. ▤ 

As the archangel is the leader of God’s angels (cf. NCV text note), quite possibly “the voice of an archangel” may signify the summoning of heavenly forces to accompany Christ on his return. The “sound of the trumpet of God” may well also be – in part at least – a signal to the angels, with Matthew 24:31 saying, “And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect …”

Alternatively their focus may be the raising of “the dead in Christ”. This is more of a possibility in the case of the trumpet call, with Matthew 24:31 being applicable to it and 1 Corinthians 15:52 saying, “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” However the prime purpose of the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call may simply be to resoundingly announce Jesus Christ’s return.

Zec 14:5  And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. ▤ 

Jesus Christ’s return appears to be what is ultimately in view here.

Jesus Christ will come in great glory

See also:

On his return Jesus Christ’s awesome intrinsic glory will be manifested. In conjunction with this and other factors, his return will be wonderfully glorious.

Matt 25:31  When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. ▤ 

Luke 9:26  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. ▤ 

Luke 21:27  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. ▤ 

Acts 2:20  … the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. ▤ 

This speaks of the day of Christ’s return as a “glorious day” (GNT, NASB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV).

Titus 2:13  … waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, … ▤ 

1Pet 4:13  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. ▤ 

Matt 24:27  For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. ▤ 

The main point of the simile is to indicate that Jesus Christ’s return will be obvious to all, but it also implies that his return will be stunning and glorious.

Matt 26:64  Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” ▤ 

The phrase “coming on the clouds of heaven” – a reference to Daniel 7:13, part of a messianic prophecy – is often understood to be alluding to Jesus Christ’s return (cf. NLT; Luke 21:27 ). As such this verse points to Jesus Christ’s glory or at least the gloriousness of his return, with him being seen at the right hand of God and “coming on the clouds of heaven”. Another view supported by its original context in Daniel is that it is referring to Jesus Christ’s enthronement, rather than to his return. (cf. NBC) If this view is the case, then the verse is not applicable to this subsection.

2Thes 1:10  … when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. ▤ 

Allied with the manifestation of his actual glory on his return, Jesus Christ will receive glory “in his saints” who have believed – presumably because of what they are (cf. NCV) and/or in their praise (cf. CEV, GNT, NLT). His glory is also reflected in the fact that they shall marvel at him – no doubt with a sense of joy and delightful anticipation.

Heb 1:6  And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” ▤ 

The reference may be to Jesus Christ’s second coming, when God “again brings the firstborn into the world” (NASB, NKJV; cf. AMP). As such it would speak of Jesus Christ being glorified on his return (cf. 2Thes 1:10 ).

  • Angels spoke of Jesus Christ returning in the same way that he went into heaven:

Acts 1:9-11  And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” ▤ 

On Jesus Christ’s return believers who have died will be resurrected . . .

See also:

1Cor 15:22-23  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. ▤ 

1Cor 15:51-52  Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. ▤ 

1Thes 4:13-16  But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,t that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. ▤ 

t Or by the word of the Lord

Some understand the use of “bring” (v. 14) to speak of believers who have died returning from heaven with Jesus. However their resurrection on his return is in view in the subsequent verses. As such, in v. 14 Paul may be referring to these believers joining Jesus prior to believers who have not died (cf. v. 16; v. 17 ⇓).

John 6:39-40, 44, 54  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” ▤ 44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. ▤ 54Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. ▤ 

Particularly in view of the above verses from Paul’s letters, in these verses and in 11:24 below, “the last day” would appear to refer to the day of Christ’s return. It could also be taken to refer to the day of judgment, particularly if the two “days” are understood to coincide.

John 11:24  Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” ▤ 

. . . and all his followers will be gathered to him

Matt 24:31  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. ▤ 

Luke 17:30, 34-35  … so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. ▤ 34I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”u ▤ 

u Some manuscripts add verse 36: Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left

John 14:2-3  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?v 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. ▤ 

v Or In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you

Jesus Christ will come back and take his people to be with him in his Father’s house, i.e. heaven.

1Thes 4:17  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. ▤ 

2Thes 2:1-2  Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,w 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. ▤ 

w Or brothers and sisters; also verses 13, 15

Rev 14:14-16  Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped. ▤ 

The one “like a son of man” (v. 14) quite probably refers to Jesus Christ. The angel in v. 15 appears to be passing on instructions – that are presumably from God – to begin “harvesting” what appears to be the righteous from the earth. As such this may well be speaking primarily of the harvesting or gathering of believers by Christ on his return, particularly with the subsequent verses (cf. vv. 17-20) referring to the judgment of the wicked.

On Jesus Christ’s return his followers will be rewarded

See also:

Matt 24:45-47  Who then is the faithful and wise servant,x whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. ▤ 

x Greek bondservant; also verses 46, 48, 50

Although the servant referred to is in charge of other servants in the master’s household, the application of this teaching is not limited to leaders.

Luke 12:37  Blessed are those servantsy whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. ▤ 

y Greek bondservants

The final statement suggests that in the afterlife Jesus Christ will in some sense again condescend to serving his people, in rewarding them.

Col 3:4  When Christ who is yourz life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. ▤ 

z Some manuscripts our

Quite possibly “appear with him in glory” refers to – or at least involves – sharing in Jesus Christ’s glory (cf. GNT, NCV, NLT).

2Tim 4:8  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. ▤ 

The “crown of righteousness” could allude to being pronounced right with God or being made completely righteous. Alternatively it may be speaking of a reward for a righteous life, even an actual crown. Not that the last phrase appears to refer to longing for Christ’s return (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV). As such the verse appears to associate “Day” with both the day of judgment and the day of Christ’s return, linking the two.

1Pet 1:7  … so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ▤ 

1Pet 5:4  And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. ▤ 

Similar to “the crown of righteousness” (cf. 2Tim 4:8 ), this “crown of glory” is most likely figurative, alluding to the glory that will be bestowed on believers.

1Jn 3:2  Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appearsa we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. ▤ 

a Or when it appears

For comment, see the comment on 1Jn 3:2 – under On Jesus Christ’s return, their bodies will be made imperishable, glorious and spiritual – like Christ.

  • In contrast, Jesus Christ’s return will cause widespread mourning amongst unbelievers:

Rev 1:7  Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wailb on account of him. Even so. Amen. ▤ 

b Or mourn

Similarly Matthew 24:30a says, “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn …” On Jesus Christ’s return, unbelievers will realize too late the errors of their ways. In the light of their rejection of Jesus Christ and the persecution of his people by many of them, they will mourn deeply – particularly in anticipation of the judgment that awaits them.

On Jesus Christ’s return evil powers will be crushed

See also:

1Cor 15:23-27a  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For “Godc has put all things in subjection under his feet.” ▤ 

c Greek he

This age will end when Jesus Christ has come (v. 23) and destroyed all his enemies (vv. 24-26). In v. 25 “reign” could be referring to Christ’s present reign as Lord, climaxing with the defeat of his enemies on his return. Alternatively “reign” may be speaking of a Millennium reign of Jesus Christ following his return (cf. Rev 20:4-6), during which he will crush all opposing powers (vv. 24-27).

2Thes 2:8  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. ▤ 

Rev 16:14-16  For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 15(“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) 16And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. ▤ 

Verse 15 appears to link Jesus Christ’s return with the final defeat of evil powers in the battle “on the great day of God the Almighty” (v. 14), at “Armageddon” (v. 16). There is a place in Israel that many identify with “Armageddon” (but this identification is not without its critics). Others see the usage of “Armageddon” as symbolic, simply signifying the event of God’s final defeat of evil (cf. Rev 19:19-21 ), rather than its geographical location.

Rev 17:14  They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. ▤ 

“They” refers to ten future kings (cf. v. 12) who may well be amongst the kings allied with the beast on Jesus Christ’s return (cf. Rev 16:14, 16 ; Rev 19:19 ), whom he will consequently destroy (cf. Rev 19:21 ).

Rev 19:11-21  Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13He is clothed in a robe dipped ind blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. 17Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave,e both small and great.” 19And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presencef had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. ▤ 

d Some manuscripts sprinkled with

e Greek bondservant

f Or on its behalf

The rider on the “white horse” (vv. 11, 19, 21) is Jesus Christ, on his second coming. Diadems (v. 12) are crowns signifying sovereignty.

  • The final defeat of Satan and evil:

Rev 20:7-10  And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaveng and consumed them, 10and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. ▤ 

g Some manuscripts from God, out of heaven, or out of heaven from God

In Revelation, Jesus Christ’s return and the subsequent crushing of evil forces (cf. Rev 19:11-21 ) is separated from Satan’s final defeat here by the period of the “thousand years” (cf. 20:1-6) commonly known as “The Millennium” (cf. Jesus Christ’s Universal Rule).

Pray for persecuted Christians

The Final Judgment (I): Its Scope and Outcomes

See also:

As reflected by the above cross reference (and some of the cross references under the following subsection headings) the outcomes of the final judgment are further discussed in the second half of this chapter.

Prelude: There will be a final “day” of God’s judgment

See also:

Matt 10:15  Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. ▤ 

2Pet 2:9  … then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,h and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, … ▤ 

h Or temptations

2Pet 3:7, 10-12  But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. ▤ 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodiesi will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.j 11Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! ▤ 

i Or elements; also verse 12

j Greek found; some manuscripts will be burned up

1Jn 4:17  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. ▤ 

Jude 1:6  And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day ▤ 

Matt 7:21-23  Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ▤ 

John 12:48  The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. ▤ 

Rom 2:5, 16  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. ▤ 16on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. ▤ 

2Tim 1:18  … may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. ▤ 

2Tim 4:8  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. ▤ 

James 5:5  You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. ▤ 

The term the “day of slaughter” may in part at least be a reference to God’s final day of judgment.

1Pet 2:12  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. ▤ 

The phrase “the day of visitation” may well mean “when he comes to judge” (NLT, NIrV, NRSV).

Rev 6:15-17  Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slavek and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” ▤ 

k Or servant; Greek bondservant

God will judge every person, for all they have done . . .

See also:

Rom 14:10  Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; … ▤ 

The context suggests Paul is primarily referring to all believers, but even so this is certainly applicable to all people.

Heb 4:13  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. ▤ 

Heb 9:27  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, … ▤ 

Heb 12:23  … and to the assemblyl of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, … ▤ 

l Or church

Jude 1:14-15  It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” ▤ 

Eccl 3:17  I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. ▤ 

In saying “there is a time for every matter and for every work” the author means either that at God’s time every activity and deed will be judged; or that just as God has a time for everything, he also has a time set for judgment. Note also that this verse, 11:9 below and 12:14 in the following subsection are not necessarily referring exclusively to God’s final judgment.

Eccl 11:9  Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. ▤ 

The writer tempers his advice by warning his readers to bear in mind that God will assess all that they do, giving fitting reward or punishment.

Matt 12:36  I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, … ▤ 

One aspect of being judged for all we have done, is that we will be judged for all we have said.

. . . All that is hidden will be revealed and judged

1Cor 4:5  Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. ▤ 

1Tim 5:24  The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. ▤ 

This speaks of how some people’s sins are well known, long before they will face judgment on the great day. In contrast, the sins of others will not be known until that day, when hidden sins will be revealed.

Luke 12:1-3  In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. ▤ 

Following on from v. 1, v. 2 and quite possibly v. 3 are teaching that nothing which is hidden, in particular sin hidden by hypocrisy (v. 1), will fail to be revealed – on the day of judgment if not before. Note that, alternatively, v.3 may have a positive thrust (cf. Matt 10:26-27).

Eccl 12:14  For God will bring every deed into judgment, withm every secret thing, whether good or evil. ▤ 

m Or into the judgment on

Rom 2:16  … on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. ▤ 

The dead will rise . . .

See also:

Luke 20:37-38  But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him. ▤ 

To God even the physically dead exist. And they with be raised to conscious existence at the end of the age.

John 11:24  Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” ▤ 

Acts 24:15  … having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. ▤ 

Acts 24:21b  ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’ ▤ 

Rev 20:4-5  Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. ▤ 

Verse 4b may be referring only to martyrs spoken of earlier in the verse, but possibly the raising to life of all dead believers is in view. The fact that this occurrence is termed “the first resurrection” (v. 5b) supports the assertion that there will be another resurrection, in which all others will be raised from death (v. 5a).

. . . They will rise to be judged, and either rewarded with eternal life or be condemned

Dan 12:2, 13  And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. ▤ 13But go your way till the end. And you [Daniel] shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days. ▤ 

The phrase “your allotted place” speaks of Daniel’s allotted inheritance or reward (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV).

John 5:28-29  Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. ▤ 

Rev 11:18  The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants,n the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth. ▤ 

n Greek bondservants

Rev 20:11-15  Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. ▤ 

Eternal life will be the reward for godliness

See also:

Matt 19:29  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfoldo and will inherit eternal life. ▤ 

o Some manuscripts manifold

Matt 25:46  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. ▤ 

John 12:25  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. ▤ 

One who forsakes his or her life in order to live for God and follow Christ will be given eternal life.

Rom 2:7  … to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; … ▤ 

Rom 6:22  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. ▤ 

Gal 6:8  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. ▤ 

1Tim 4:8  … for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. ▤ 

Godliness gives hope of sharing in God’s promises of both this present life and the eternal life to come.

1Tim 6:12, 18-19  Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. ▤ 18They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. ▤ 

References to “eternal life” (v. 12) can include the abundant, spiritual life that Christians experience now – as well as life after death. However – like the references generally in this subsection – here the latter is probably primarily in view, as with the expression “that which is truly life” (v. 19). Note that “the good confession” (v. 12) probably refers to a formal confession of belief in Jesus Christ, most likely on the occasion of Timothy’s baptism.

James 1:12  Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. ▤ 

The “the crown of life” (cf. Rev 2:10) is most likely an allusion to eternal life – “life forever” (NCV™).

1Jn 2:17, 24-25  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. ▤ 24Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25And this is the promise that he made to usp—eternal life. ▤ 

p Some manuscripts you

Verse 24a speaks of the teaching they had been given. It was to remain or abide in them; they were to keep it in their hearts (cf. GNT), reflecting on it and applying it to their lives. As such, it speaks of godliness, which is also reflected in remaining in one’s relationship with Jesus Christ and God (v. 24b). The outcome of this is eternal life (v. 25), the reward for “whoever does the will of God” (v. 17).

Dan 12:3  And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above;q and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. ▤ 

q Hebrew the expanse; compare Genesis 1:6-8

The “wise” are those who have acted wisely in God’s eyes. The rewards mentioned refer to the eternal glorification of these believers.

God’s wrath and destruction will be the recompense for ungodliness

See also:

Rom 2:5, 8  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. ▤ 8but for those who are self-seekingr and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. ▤ 

r Or contentious

Col 3:5-6  Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:s sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming.t ▤ 

s Greek therefore your members that are on the earth

t Some manuscripts add upon the sons of disobedience

This probably primarily refers to the wrath of God associated with the final judgment.

2Thes 1:8-9  … in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away fromu the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, … ▤ 

u Or destruction that comes from

2Pet 2:4-6, 9  For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hellv and committed them to chainsw of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; ▤ 9then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,y and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, … ▤ 

v Greek Tartarus

w Some manuscripts pits

x Some manuscripts an example to those who were to be ungodly

y Or temptations

The phrase “under punishment” (v. 9) could mean that God persistently punishes the unrighteous even prior to judgment day. Alternatively, it may simply refer to them being kept for their ultimate punishment pronounced on judgment day.

2Pet 3:7  But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. ▤ 

Rev 11:18  The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants,z the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth. ▤ 

z Greek bondservants

The unbelieving nations vented their anger at God (cf. NLT), raging against him. The result of this is that they face God’s wrath – primarily at the time of the final judgment, when “the destroyers of the earth” will themselves face destruction.

Luke 6:49  But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great. ▤ 

Although certainly also applicable to any torrential “stream” of this life, God’s final judgment may be primarily in view, with the complete destruction it brings on the ungodly who do not put Jesus’ words into action.

  • The bleak prospects of the ungodly in the face of God’s judgment:

1Pet 4:17-18  For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”a ▤ 

a Greek where will the ungodly and sinner appear?

The “judgment” beginning with the family of God quite possibly refers to the hardships God’s people suffer now as a form of purifying judgment. If they experience such judgment, the prospects of the ungodly are bleak indeed.

Pray for persecuted Christians

The Final Judgment (II): The Process

See also:

As this section shows, there will be two prominent factors in the final judgment: people’s deeds; and people’s response to Jesus Christ (i.e. whether one has believed in or has rejected him). This has led many theologians to conclude that people’s eternal destiny (i.e. heaven or hell) will be determined by their response to Jesus Christ, with their deeds then determining the degree of their reward or punishment.

However bear in mind that there is also a correlation between godly deeds and belief in Jesus Christ, and likewise between ungodly deeds and rejection of Jesus Christ. As such, there may well be a strong correlation between judgment on the basis of one’s deeds and judgment on the basis of one’s response to Jesus Christ. (See also the introductory comment on Those who have rejected Jesus Christ – not obeying and doing evil – will be condemned.)

God has appointed Jesus Christ judge and will judge all people through him

See also:

John 5:22-23, 27  The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. ▤ 27And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. ▤ 

In saying that God has given him authority to judge “because he is the Son of Man” (v. 27), Jesus may be meaning that it is because he is the one spoken of in Daniel 7:13-14 as “one like a son of man” to whom was given “dominion and glory and a kingdom”.

Acts 10:42  And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. ▤ 

Acts 17:31  … because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. ▤ 

In the second part of the verse Paul’s point may be that by raising Jesus Christ, God validated Christ’s claims that God would judge the world through him (cf. John 5:22-23, 27 ). For in raising Christ, God firstly validated Christ’s claim that he would rise from the dead, and consequently gave credence to all Christ’s other claims.

Rom 2:16  … on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. ▤ 

2Cor 5:10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. ▤ 

2Tim 4:1  I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: … ▤ 

Matt 3:12  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. ▤ 

Here John the Baptist speaks of Jesus. The reference to Jesus sorting out the righteous “wheat” from the condemned “chaff” may be applicable to his ministry in his first coming, but taken as a whole the statement appears to primarily at least have in view his role in the final judgment.

On his return, Jesus Christ will judge and reward all people according to what they have done . . .

See also:

Matt 16:27  For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. ▤ 

Rev 22:12  Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. ▤ 

Matt 7:21-23  Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ▤ 

Those who do God’s will “will enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 21); those who do evil will be turned away (v. 23).

Matt 25:31-46  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,b you did it to me.’ 41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” ▤ 

b Or brothers and sisters

When Jesus Christ returns and judges people according to what they have done, he will take into account the things they have not done that they should have done (vv. 41-46).

Rom 2:5-10, 16  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6He will render to each one according to his works: 7to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8but for those who are self-seekingc and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. ▤ 16on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. ▤ 

c Or contentious

2Thes 1:6-7  … since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels … ▤ 

Jude 1:14-15  It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” ▤ 

Rev 20:12-13  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. ▤ 

. . . God’s people will be judged and rewarded according to what they have done

See also:

1Cor 3:8, 12-15  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. ▤ 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. ▤ 

Here Paul speaks of the work of building the church (v. 12), and he probably has church teachers primarily in view. The builders need to be careful to build with quality materials – symbolized by the gold, silver and costly stones. (Such materials would include correct doctrine, complemented by a godly lifestyle.) Quality work – as with poor work – will be shown for what it is when tested on the Day of Judgment (vv. 13-15).

1Cor 4:4-5  For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. ▤ 

The context and the reference to receiving “commendation from God” (v. 5b), suggests that Paul may well have primarily in view judgment and reward of Christian service.

2Cor 5:10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. ▤ 

A number of commentators understand this to be referring primarily to evaluation of what believers have done – for determining their reward, rather than their eternal destiny (which is secured by faith in Jesus Christ). However Paul could more generally be referring to Christ’s judgment of all people.

Eph 6:8  … knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. ▤ 

For whatever good we do, we “will receive back from the Lord” repayment which is in accordance with it. Note that here Paul is addressing Christian slaves (cf. Col 3:23-25 ).

Col 3:23-25  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. ▤ 

Particularly given the context, v. 25 provides a sobering warning for professing believers.

James 2:12  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. ▤ 

Christians are freer to please God, being under a “law” and covenant that gives freedom from encumbering regulations and sin. As such, more will be expected of them in the judgment of their words and actions.

1Pet 1:17  And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, … ▤ 

As with a number of the other verses in this subsection, this is not necessarily confined to just the “work” of Christians – nor to just the final judgment.

Rev 2:23  … and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. ▤ 

The immediate context is the judgment of a false prophetess and her “children” or followers. However Christ’s second statement here is a general truth, applicable to all his judgments – on churches and their members, as well as other people – including of course the final judgment.

Rev 14:13  And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” ▤ 

The first statement makes it clear that deeds of believers are being spoken of in the second statement. The latter implies that their godly deeds will bring them reward in the afterlife.

  • Supposed servants of Jesus Christ who do evil will be doomed:

Luke 12:45-46  But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. ▤ 

The final clause appears to refer to the punishment in store for unbelievers, which will be shared by supposed servants of Christ who have been unfaithful. Note that Matthew 7:21-23 in the previous subsection has a similar theme.

People will have to give an account of themselves

Rom 14:11-12  … for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confessd to God.” 12So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. ▤ 

d Or shall give praise

The fact that everyone will have to bow before and acknowledge God (v. 11) points to the assertion that all will have to give an account of themselves to God (v. 12). Given the context of the passage, in v.12 the writer is probably primarily referring to Christians. However v. 11 may be implying a more general application, which is also valid.

Heb 4:13  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. ▤ 

1Pet 4:5  … but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. ▤ 

Luke 19:15  When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. ▤ 

The parable from which this is taken (cf. vv. 11-27) is illustrative of judgment day and the accompanying requirement to give an account for what we have been entrusted with. Believers may primarily be in view.

  • We will have to give account of careless words, for by our words we will be acquitted or condemned:

Matt 12:34-37  You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. ▤ 

Although words and deeds are often distinguished, to say something is itself an action or a deed – so these verses correlate well with the previous subsections’ teaching of deeds being a critical aspect of judgment. But probably what Jesus has primarily in mind is that one’s words are fitting as a basis of judgment because they are indicative of what is in one’s heart (vv. 34-35). As such, this reflects a further correlation between one’s words and one’s deeds.

Those who have believed in Jesus Christ will be saved and have eternal life

See also:

Acts 16:30-31  Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” ▤ 

Rom 10:9  … because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ▤ 

The confession “Jesus is Lord” is a statement of one’s belief.

2Tim 3:15  … and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. ▤ 

Mark 16:16  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. ▤ 

Note that baptism is an affirmation of one’s faith, rather than an additional requirement of salvation.

Heb 10:39  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. ▤ 

John 3:14-16, 36  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.e 16“For God so loved the world,f that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ▤ 36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. ▤ 

e Some interpreters hold that the quotation ends at verse 15

f Or For this is how God loved the world

John 5:24  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. ▤ 

Believing what God spoke through Jesus primarily involves believing in Jesus Christ, the focus of God’s message.

John 6:40  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. ▤ 

John 11:25-26  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.g Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” ▤ 

g Some manuscripts omit and the life

Those who believe in Jesus Christ will live even though they die physically (v. 25b); in a spiritual sense they will never die (v. 26a).

John 20:31  … but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ▤ 

Believers have spiritual, eternal life. It begins on belief and continues forever.

1Tim 1:16  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. ▤ 

  • By faith, through Jesus Christ, people have peace with God:

Rom 5:1  Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, weh have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. ▤ 

h Some manuscripts let us

In conjunction with being saved, by faith in Jesus Christ one is justified and at peace with God.

Those who have rejected Jesus Christ – not obeying and doing evil – will be condemned

See also:

The following passages reflect an association between not believing in Jesus Christ and disobedience (or acting wickedly). These two things parallel the need for people to both believe and repent, and reflect the fact that at the last judgment both what people have believed in and what they have done will be critical factors.

John 3:18-21  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. ▤ 

The phrase “this is the judgment” (v. 19) essentially means: “Their judgment is based on this fact” (NLT; cf. GNT, NCV). One’s acceptance or rejection of the “light” that came in Jesus Christ – here associated with one’s deeds (vv. 19-21) – forms the basis of one’s judgment.

John 12:47-48  If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. ▤ 

In v. 47a, “does not keep them” appears to refer to not obeying Jesus’ words (v. 47a; cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIrV, NLT), but could also or instead refer to not believing them (cf. NKJV). Verse 48 teaches that those who have rejected Jesus and his words will be condemned in the light of and in accordance with his words. Note that in saying that he did not come to judge (v. 47), Jesus is speaking of his first advent.

2Thes 1:7b-9  … when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away fromi the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, … ▤ 

i Or destruction that comes from

Not obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ (v. 8b) involves rejecting him. Additionally, rejecting Jesus Christ and not obeying the gospel is symptomatic of not knowing God (v. 8a).

Heb 10:26-31  For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ▤ 

Deliberately continuing to sin (v. 26) will bring God’s judgment (v. 27). This is because it is in effect doing the things listed in v. 29, which amount to rejecting Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for sin – as the comparison with rejecting the law of Moses (v. 28) implies. Such rejection of Jesus Christ necessitates God’s judgment (vv. 30-31).

Jude 1:14-15  It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” ▤ 

This speaks of the ungodly as both acting in an “ungodly way” and rejecting Jesus Christ with the harsh words they have spoken against him. Consequently they will be convicted.

2Thes 2:9-12  The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. ▤ 

The references to perishing (v. 9) speak of eternal destruction and punishment. Loving the truth (v. 10) and believing the truth (v. 12) involve adhering to and believing the truth about Jesus.

  • In contrast to those who acknowledge him, whoever disowns Jesus Christ will be disowned by him:

Matt 10:32-33  So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. ▤ 

What people have known will be taken into account

See also:

What people have known of Jesus Christ and of God’s will, will be taken into account in their judgment.

Matt 10:7-8, 14-15  And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers,j cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. ▤ 14And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. ▤ 

j Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13

Those who have heard the message of the kingdom and witnessed the accompanying signs that authenticate it (vv. 7-8), are more accountable than those who have not (vv. 14-15). This will be reflected in the judgments of both groups. Note that for the disciples to shake the dust off their feet (v. 14), would be indicative of the unclean state of the place and alluded to the judgment that awaited it.

Matt 11:20-24  Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” ▤ 

Matt 12:41-42  The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. ▤ 

As the people of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba had responded to lesser revelations from God, Jesus’ generation will be all the more accountable for not responding to the revelation that came through him.

Luke 12:47-48  And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. ▤ 

John 9:41  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt;k but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. ▤ 

k Greek you would not have sin

Jesus appears to be implying that if the Pharisees were ignorant of spiritual things, they would not be guilty – at least not to such an extent (cf. comment on John 15:22, 24 ). But as they claimed knowledge of such matters, their guilt was confirmed.

John 15:22, 24  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin,l but now they have no excuse for their sin. ▤ 24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. ▤ 

l Greek they would not have sin; also verse 24

The phrase “they would not have been guilty of sin” (vv. 22, 24) does not mean that they had never sinned, but rather that if they did not have the revelation made known to them through Jesus, they would not be guilty of such deliberate, defiant sin; now they were without excuse for their sin (v. 22). Verse 24 implies that in particular they were now guilty of the decisive sin of rejecting Jesus in spite of what they had seen.

Rom 2:12-15  For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them … ▤ 

Gentiles without knowledge of the Mosaic Law, by nature have a grasp of its requirements (vv. 14-15) and will be judged as such (v. 12a). Those who know the law have a clearer understanding of what God requires, and so their judgment will be more exacting (v. 12b).

  • All people have at least known of God through his creation – and so have no excuse:

Rom 1:18-20  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. ▤ 

This passage is not talking specifically about God’s final judgment, but its teaching is certainly applicable to it.

Pray for persecuted Christians

Jesus Christ’s Universal Rule

See also:

The subject of Jesus Christ’s universal rule and a messianic age has different interpretations. One view is that they should primarily be correlated with the present form of God’s kingdom, over which Jesus Christ rules as Lord and where people from among the nations have turned to God. Another view is that there will be a period of widespread righteousness at the end of the age prior to the consummation of God’s kingdom and the afterlife (as per “The Millennium”, see below). A further possibility is that verses speaking of the Messiah’s universal rule are portraying the afterlife. (Additionally, some of the passages may have different stages of fulfillment, and so be relevant to more than one of these scenarios.)

Accordingly, it is debatable whether chronologically this section – or particular subsections in it – should be placed: before the earlier sections on Jesus Christ’s return; before the above sections on the last judgment; or even in the second half of this chapter.

Note that while most of the subsections’ themes are open to interpretation, some of the verses that they contain quite clearly have a particular one of the above three scenarios in view.

Prelude: The thousand years

Revelation 20:1-6 below is critical to the significant concept of “The Millennium”. Each verse in vv. 2-6 refers to a thousand-year period – a millennium. This millennium is also arguably referred to by numerous OT prophetic passages and possibly a few NT ones. As well as in the following subsections, many such OT passages are found in God’s Plans for Israel. This section (Jesus Christ’s Universal Rule) and God’s Plans for Israel cover most of the concepts involved in the doctrine of “The Millennium”.

There are three major views of this “Millennium”. Amillennialists view the reign of deceased believers with Christ (cf. Rev 20:4, 6 ) to refer to a present reign in heaven. They see this reign as having been introduced by Jesus Christ’s first coming, with him being pronounced Lord of all (cf. introductory comment on Jesus Christ as Lord of All). They believe that Jesus Christ will return, and then the general resurrection will occur, followed by the final judgment. Following this would be the reign of Jesus Christ over the new earth in the afterlife.

Postmillennialists believe that Christianity will become dominant in the world through the spread of the gospel, resulting in a long lasting era of righteousness – i.e. the millennium. This would be followed by Christ’s return, the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment. Premillennialists believe that Christ’s return will be followed by a first resurrection of believers, who will reign with Christ in a literal thousand-year rule of righteousness on earth. This would then be followed by the final resurrection and then the final judgment.

The use of “post” and “pre” in the names of the latter two positions refers to their view of when Christ will return in relation to the millennium. The Amillennialist and Premillennialist viewpoints are probably the most popular today.

Rev 20:1-6  Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pitm and a great chain. 2And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. 4Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. ▤ 

m Greek the abyss; also verse 3

The clause “those to whom the authority to judge was committed” (v. 4a) most likely refers to believers, though angels are a possibility. They are not necessarily the martyrs subsequently spoken of, although they could be at least inclusive of them. Furthermore, the clause may not be speaking of only believers who remain faithful during the severe persecution of the end times, but may symbolically encompass all believers. Premillennialists understand “the first resurrection” (v. 6) to be the physical raising to life of all dead believers, to reign with Christ upon the earth for a thousand years.

God will establish the Messiah as ruler over all, forever

See also:

God’s implementation of his authority through Jesus Christ’s rule will not only be universal but also everlasting. Note that some commentators understand the Millennium to be an initial stage in Christ’s rule.

Gen 49:10  The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him;n and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. ▤ 

n By a slight revocalization; a slight emendation yields (compare Septuagint, Syriac, Targum) until he comes to whom it belongs; Hebrew until Shiloh comes, or until he comes to Shiloh

Particularly in view of the text note (cf. AMP, NCV, NIV, NLT), this is commonly understood to refer to a descendant of Judah who would rule not only Israel but have “the obedience of the peoples”. It may have had an initial fulfillment in David, but probably ultimately refers to the Messiah (or Christ).

Ps 2:6-9  “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9You shall breako them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” ▤ 

o Revocalization yields (compare Septuagint) You shall rule

This and the following two references (72:8-11; 89:25-29) are from psalms concerning Davidic kings, with messianic applications. Installed by God as King in Zion (v. 6), the Messiah – God’s Son (v. 7) – will assert his authority over the nations (vv. 8-9; cf. Rev 19:15). Once his rule is established, as the following subsection shows, it will be one of righteousness and peace.

Ps 72:8-11  May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the Riverp to the ends of the earth! 9May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust! 10May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! 11May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! ▤ 

p That is, the Euphrates

Ps 89:25-29  I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. 26He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ 27And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. 28My steadfast love I will keep for him forever, and my covenant will stand firmq for him. 29I will establish his offspring forever and his throne as the days of the heavens. ▤ 

q Or will remain faithful

The term “firstborn” (v. 27) is indicative of being in a position above all others in God’s kingdom, as reflected in the subsequent clause.

Isa 55:4  Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. ▤ 

This is either referring to the Messiah or back to David (cf. v. 3) as “one (One) who shall testify of salvation” to the peoples (AMP). Even if David is primarily in view, the prophecy is ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah.

Dan 7:13-14  I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. ▤ 

1Cor 15:25  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. ▤ 

For comment, see the comment on 1Cor 15:25 – under On Jesus Christ’s return evil powers will be crushed.

Eph 1:9-10  … making knownr to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. ▤ 

r Or he lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight, making known . . .

The latter part of v. 10 – key to these verses being pertinent to this subsection – may be speaking more of God unifying and consummating creation in Christ (cf. AMP), rather than primarily of Christ’s rule over them. However, even so, arguably the latter is implied (cf. GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT).

Heb 2:5  Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. ▤ 

There are different interpretations of this verse. The time period in view with the phrase “the world to come” has been interpreted as referring to the millennium, the afterlife and even the present age (cf. NCV). The phrase “it was not to angels” quite possibly refers to Jesus Christ, although it may allude to believers in their participation in Christ’s reign. In either case, the verse is indicative of the subjection of this “world” to Jesus Christ.

Dan 2:44  And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, … ▤ 

This is considered by some scholars to be referring to the introduction of the kingdom of God on Christ’s first coming, while others think that it is speaking of the setting up of a millennial kingdom on Christ’s return. Another possibility is that the first alternative is initially in view, with the prophecy to be consummately fulfilled on Christ’s return by either a millennial kingdom or the consummation of God’s kingdom on the commencement of the afterlife.

  • On his return, Jesus Christ will assume his throne:

Matt 25:31  When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. ▤ 

This points to Jesus Christ asserting his ultimate authority over the entire world on his return. Note that in 19:28 Jesus similarly speaks of: “… the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne …”

The Messiah will have a universal reign of righteousness and peace

See also:

Heb 1:8  But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. ▤ 

Isa 11:1-10  There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. 6The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 10In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. ▤ 

The “shoot” and “branch” (v. 1) signify the Christ, who will be from the line of David the son of Jesse (vv. 1, 10). Verses 6-8 portray the ultimate peace that will characterize the Christ’s reign. Although this peace is spoken of in v. 9a as occurring on God’s “holy mountain”, vv. 9b-10 appear to imply that such conditions will extend over all the earth. In v. 10, “a signal for the peoples” appears to speak of the Messiah rallying the nations to himself (cf. NIV, NLT), in submission to him and possibly also as the one who provides them with salvation. His “resting place” refers to where he dwells (cf. AMP, NCV, NLT) – in effect the place from where he rules (cf. NIrV).

Isa 42:1-4  Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4He will not grow faint or be discourageds till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. ▤ 

s Or bruised

Most of this passage is quoted in Matthew 12:18-21 in reference to Jesus Christ. Particularly in light of this, the unassuming and gentle nature portrayed in vv. 2-3 may well have his first advent primarily in view (cf. Zec 9:9 ), while v. 4 – not included in the Matthew quotation – seems to look to Christ’s second coming.

Mic 4:3-4  He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations far away; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; 4but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. ▤ 

“He” (v. 3) refers to the Lord (cf. v. 1), but many understand this prophecy as being fulfilled through the Messiah. As with v. 3, v. 4 reflects the peaceful state of his kingdom.

Zec 9:9-10  Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. ▤ 

Similar to Isaiah 42:1-4 above, v. 9 has Jesus Christ’s first advent primarily in view (cf. Matt 21:1-11), while v. 10 probably looks towards Christ’s second coming.

  • God promises to bring justice to the nations:

Isa 51:4-5  Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation; for a lawt will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples. 5My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait. ▤ 

t Or for teaching; also verse 7

The last clause in v. 4 suggests that God’s justice will become a “guiding light” (NIrV®) to the nations, possibly in part due to the prevalence of God’s aforementioned law. Additionally, God’s salvation (cf. v. 5) may be in view as securing the nations’ welfare, turning the darkness of their circumstances to light.

All nations will turn to God

See also:

As with the other subsections in this chapter section, the verses in this and the following subsection appear to have in view the time of the Messiah’s reign. Under the Messiah’s universal reign of righteousness, all nations will turn to God.

Ps 65:2  O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come. ▤ 

Ps 68:31  Nobles shall come from Egypt; Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God. ▤ 

Isa 2:3  … and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law,u and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. ▤ 

u Or teaching

The “mountain” is Mount Zion. It is part of Jerusalem, which it is often used to represent – as is implied by the latter part of the verse. In conjunction with the submission of the nations to God, this portrays God’s law and word as emanating from Jerusalem, teaching all the nations.

Isa 66:18  For I knowv their works and their thoughts, and the time is comingw to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, … ▤ 

v Septuagint, Syriac; Hebrew lacks know

w Hebrew and it is coming

This speaks of God leading the nations to turn to him.

Jer 16:19  O Lord, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say: “Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit. ▤ 

Zec 2:11a  And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. ▤ 

Zec 8:20-21  Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. 21The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’ ▤ 

Acts 15:16-18  ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, 17that the remnantx of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things 18known from of old.’ ▤ 

x Or rest

Here Amos 9:11-12 is quoted by James as being fulfilled in part at least in the turning to God by significant numbers of Gentiles following Jesus Christ’s mission (cf. vv. 13-19). (As such a similar application or interpretation could be applied to a number of other verses in this and other subsections in this section.) Some scholars consider that it also speaks of a more comprehensive turning to God by the Gentiles at the end of the age.

Mic 7:15-17  As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show themy marvelous things. 16The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; they shall lay their hands on their mouths; their ears shall be deaf; 17they shall lick the dust like a serpent, like the crawling things of the earth; they shall come trembling out of their strongholds; they shall turn in dread to the Lord our God, and they shall be in fear of you. ▤ 

y Hebrew him

In v. 16, “they shall lay their hands on their mouths” appears to indicate “awe” (NLT) of God and “dismay” (GNT, cf. AMP). As a result of God’s wonderful acts (v. 15), the nations will understand their relative lack of power and be in awe of God (v. 16). Consequently they will humbly turn in fear to God (v. 17).

  • Prophecy of peoples coming to join God’s people:

Isa 45:14  Thus says the Lord: “The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to you and be yours; they shall follow you; they shall come over in chains and bow down to you. They will plead with you, saying: ‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other, no god besides him.’” ▤ 

In conjunction with coming to God, this speaks of peoples coming to Jerusalem – aligning themselves with God’s people – and acknowledging that he is the only God. Furthermore, earlier Isaiah says that all people will have knowledge of the Lord: “… the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (11:9)

All nations will worship God

See also:

Ps 22:27-29  All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. 28For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. 29All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. ▤ 

Verse 29b is speaking of “all mortals— those born to die” (NLT, cf. GNT, NCV).

Ps 66:4  All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah ▤ 

A number of other translations use a future tense (cf. AMP, NASB, NKJV, NLT), suggesting that this has a future fulfillment.

Ps 86:9  All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. ▤ 

Isa 19:18-25  In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord of hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction.z 19In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. 20It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. 21And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them. 22And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them. 23In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. 24In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, 25whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.” ▤ 

z Dead Sea Scroll and some other manuscripts City of the Sun

As part of the Gentiles turning to God and worshiping him, this passage also speaks of the Gentiles being incorporated into God’s people and kingdom. In saying that the Egyptians will “speak the language of Canaan”, v. 18 points to the Egyptians identifying themselves with God’s people – which they will do more emphatically when they “swear allegiance” to God. The reference to both Egypt and Assyria (v. 23-25), two of Israel’s most notable enemies, may well signify the Gentiles in general joining Israel in devotion to and worship of God, and sharing equally with her in God’s blessings.

Isa 45:23  By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’a ▤ 

a Septuagint every tongue shall confess to God

Bowing before God and swearing allegiance (v. 23) are acts of worship.

Isa 61:11  For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. ▤ 

The “righteousness and praise” may refer to the righteousness and praise of God of all nations (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT) – hence the verse’s inclusion here. Israel’s righteousness and praise of God is also a possibility.

Isa 66:23  From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the Lord. ▤ 

Dan 7:27  And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.’b ▤ 

b Or his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him

If the rendering in the text note is to be preferred (cf. AMP, CEV, NASB, NIV, NKJV), then this verse would be indicative of all nations worshiping God, with serving God being associated with worship of him.

Zeph 2:11  The Lord will be awesome against them; for he will famish all the gods of the earth, and to him shall bow down, each in its place, all the lands of the nations. ▤ 

Zeph 3:9-10  For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord. 10From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, the daughter of my dispersed ones, shall bring my offering. ▤ 

In v. 9 “peoples” refers to all nations. Similarly “my dispersed ones” (v. 10) may be speaking of those among other nations who worship God, although the scattered remnant of Israel may be in view.

Mal 1:11  For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will bec great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. ▤ 

c Or is (three times in verse 11; also verse 14)

Rev 15:4  Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. ▤ 

  • All nations will fear God:

Ps 102:15  Nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory. ▤ 

That all nations will fear God is reflected above in Revelation 15:4 and also in Micah 7:15-17 in the previous subsection.

All people will acknowledge and submit to Jesus Christ

As the Messiah, under his reign all people will acknowledge Jesus Christ’s identity and authority – and consequently submit to him. The following verses reflect this, speaking of people’s words and deeds which are indicative of these things.

Phil 2:9-11  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ▤ 

The implication is that every knee “will bow” (CEV, NASB, NCV, NIrV, NLT) in submission as all people and spiritual beings acknowledge Jesus Christ’s lordship.

Rev 5:13  And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” ▤ 

Ps 72:11  May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! ▤ 

The suggestion is that this will happen (cf. AMP, GNT, NIV, NKJV, NLT). The Messiah is ultimately in view.

Dan 7:14  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. ▤ 

Isa 49:7  Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” ▤ 

The Messianic servant is likely in view here. Note that “his Holy One” refers to the Lord as Israel’s Holy One.

  • People will come to understand who Jesus Christ is:

Isa 52:13-15  Behold, my servant shall act wisely;d he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind— 15so shall he sprinklee many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. ▤ 

d Or shall prosper

e Or startle

Jesus Christ’s return and subsequent reign may well be in view in v. 15 – and possibly alluded to or encompassed with the earlier reference to him being “exalted”. Such will be the exaltation of the messianic servant that kings will be “speechless with amazement” (GNT) when they see his exaltation and understand who he is and what he has accomplished. Note that “startle” – the alternative rendering in the text note (cf. NLT, NRSV; cf. AMP, NCV, NIrV), points more strongly to Christ’s return being in view.

God’s people will reign with Jesus Christ

Dan 7:18, 21-22, 27  But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’ ▤ 21As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. ▤ 27And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.’f ▤ 

f Or his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him

2Tim 2:12  … if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; … ▤ 

Rev 2:26-27  The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. ▤ 

The quotation in v. 27 is from Psalm 2, a psalm with messianic applications. It is used here to underscore the stern authority that believers will have in conjunction with the supreme authority of Jesus Christ, who is the speaker here and in 3:21 immediately below.

Rev 3:21  The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. ▤ 

Rev 5:10  … and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth. ▤ 

The use of “you” refers to “the Lamb” (v. 8), Jesus Christ.

Rev 20:4-6  Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. ▤ 

For comment, see both the comment on Rev 20:1-6 and the introductory comment for the subsection it is under – Prelude: The thousand years.

Rev 22:5  And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. ▤ 

This refers to the time after the “thousand years” and the final judgment, showing that believers will continue to reign throughout eternity, not just during the “thousand years” (cf. Rev 20:4-6 ).

Matt 24:46-47  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. ▤ 

Here and in 25:21 below, Jesus Christ is speaking of himself as the “master”, with faithful believers as the faithful servants. Being put in charge of “all his possessions” and “much” (Matt 25:21 ) appears to point to their roles in reigning with Jesus Christ.

Matt 25:21  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.g You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ ▤ 

g Greek bondservant; also verses 23, 26, 30

Luke 22:29-30  … and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. ▤ 

In v. 29 Jesus appears to speak of granting his kingdom – with “the right to rule” (CEV, GNT) – to his twelve disciples. (For an alternative interpretation see the comment on Luke 22:28-30 – under . . . and God’s people will inherit the kingdom.) The latter part of v. 30 appears to speak of a future role assigned to the twelve disciples in particular, and as such would not be so readily applicable to believers in general.

1Cor 6:2-3  Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! ▤ 

This is perhaps meaning that believers will play a role in the final judgment. Otherwise it is referring to judging as one aspect of their role in ruling with Christ.

Rom 5:17  For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. ▤ 

The phrase “reign in life” possibly refers to the future reign that believers will participate in through Jesus Christ, although the context indicates that it may primarily be referring to their “triumph over sin and death” (NLT).

Pray for persecuted Christians