Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (NIV)
“Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.” When the Day of Judgment comes the earth will be no more. The earth is only a temporary place. The universe is only a temporary place. When God’s plan for the earth is over, the earth and the physical universe will no longer have any purpose, so they will be removed. My friend, please do not live in the world as though the world mattered. You live here now, but ultimately this is not our home.
We saw in a previous post that those that belong to God are not really said to be dead when their body dies. They are said to be asleep in the earth. But, here we see those that are called “the dead,” and their fate is much different than that of those are merely asleep. I am not sure when a person’s name is written into the Book of Life, but whether it is written at conception or written in later is unimportant. The important thing is that when you have a living faith in God and in his Son Jesus Christ, then your name is either written into the Book or it remains in the Book. Those people that are in rebellion toward God do not have their name in the Book and are therefore spiritually cut-off from God. You can think of God as a large spiritual being and those that belong to him actually exist within him, like cells in a body as it were. If you are like a cell within the body of God then you are fed and nourished like any ordinary cell; God’s sustaining life force is connected to you and you are fed like blood brings nutrients to your mortal cells. If you are inside of God then you are alive, because God is alive. If you are outside then you are dead. Dead things don’t remain healthy looking long. They decompose and are gone.
We see here that the dead are judged according to what they have done. I will explain this a bit. It is like a human family. If a husband and a wife have a child then their child is in the family. As long as the child has love and faith towards the family then the child is in the family and all is well. If some outsider says to the father and mother, “I am a better child than your child so you must accept me into your family too,” they would not for that reason be adopted into the family. This presumptive child might indeed be a much better person than the natural son or daughter. They might be an A student at school and a real help around the house, but those things will not make any difference. Children of the family are either real children or adopted children, and both/either are members of the family by faith and love. Faith and love play a vital role in families whether or not the family members realize it or not. Faith and Love are king. If a child is accepted into the family then he or she is regardless of merit. God’s family is like that too. Those of his family are not judged as to be good enough. And those that are not of his family are not admitted into his family on merit alone. They can be admitted if they reach out in faith and love, but on account of merit.
So, we see that the dead are judged, but the living are not. Those that are judged will find that even though they are in some ways better, they will not be accepted because they are not in the body of God, that is, they did not love God nor have real faith in him, they are not members of his family as it were.
Verse 13 above is pretty interesting. “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.” The sea is a symbolic word that means the mass of human beings. What this is saying is that those that are still alive at the time of Judgment Day, that is to say, alive in the flesh, but not alive towards God, are judged. And death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them is talking about those that have died a physical death before the Day of Judgment and have been waiting for Judgment Day in Hades. Both of these groups are treated the same. Both are condemned. Neither were in the family of God. Notice that Hades is a temporary holding place. I think it likely that the notion of purgatory comes from this temporary nature of Hades. Notice too, that a person doesn’t spend time in Purgatory (Hades) paying for certain sins and then gets out and enters into heaven. This is a very common belief but I can find no Scriptural validation for this teaching. If a person dies, that is, their body dies, and they themselves do not have a living relationship with God, then they are excluded from the presence of God, that is to say, they will not live out their existence in a relationship with God, that is to say, they will not go to heaven.
The Second Death
The first death is the death of the body. The second death is the permanent exclusion from the presence of God. As long as we are alive we can turn from our rebellious ways and seek God in faith and love. God is willing to accept any and all who come to him. He is more than willing, he is delighted.
Physical death is only a metaphor for permanent spiritual separation from God, or the Second Death. Physical death is meaningless. It is a translation from one existence to another. Ironically physical death is more like physical birth than anything. During physical birth a being doesn’t suddenly become alive, no rather, they were alive in the womb but are now alive in a much broader sense. Physical death is like that. We are alive but then we undergo the death of the body and become much more alive than before. The difference between those that leave their mortal bodies and go to live with God and those that are sent to Hades and then to the Lake of Fire has everything to do with their relationship with God. Those that die in the family of God are translated into ever more life, those that die outside of the body are excluded from the life giving love force of peace and healing.
It is my opinion that what makes Hades bad is the fact that you are there with selfish people, as it were. God’s nature of Love is a healing nature. God’s nature brings Peace. Those that are connected to God are connected to Love and Peace. Those that are not connected to God are thrown into a prison with very unloving and un-peaceful people. Why are human prisons so bad? Is it not because you are there with people that make it bad? I believe so. But, even in the worst human prison, you can be there with God inside of you; protecting and sustaining you. And if you are there with God then you know that it is only temporary, but the Lake if Fire is forever.
Fire is symbolic of sin. Being thrown into the Lake of Fire is to be thrown into the realm of sin—forever.