Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
(a) Beheaded because of their testimony. Just as John, Paul and other apostles were imprisoned for preaching about Jesus (Php. 1:14, 2 Tim. 2:9, Rev. 1:9), many first-century Christians were likewise persecuted and some were martyred for their faith.
(b) Their testimony of Jesus Christ. The saints weren’t persecuted because they were religious or because they went to church. They were beheaded because they confessed Jesus as Lord above all. In a Roman world of the late first century and early second century, this was a capital crime punishable by execution.
(c) The word of God is Jesus. See entry for Rev. 19:13.
Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
Second death. According to rabbinical tradition, the second death refers to the ultimate extinction of the wicked. It’s the final outcome for those who reject the gift of life (John 5:40, 10:28). See entry for Rev. 2:11.
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
(a) Books were opened. The books by which the dead are judged are the records of men’s thoughts and deeds (see Rom. 2:16). These books reveal that all have fallen short of God’s glory. They are the books of death. But thank God there is another book, a Book of Life
(b) The Book of Life is the heavenly register of those who inherit eternal life. It is a register of the citizens of the kingdom of God. See entry for Rev. 3:5.
(c) According to their deeds. We are each judged by our response to Jesus.
In the hands of a works preacher this verse is a rod for driving the sheep. “You’d better work hard for the Lord or he’ll be displeased when he comes.” And the result is dead works and exhausted Christians. This is not what Jesus is talking about.
What is the deed that is repaid? The one deed that counts is following Jesus to the cross, being baptized into his death so that we might live by his Spirit (see entry for Matt. 16:27).
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
(a) Hades; see next verse.
(b) According to their deeds; see previous verse.
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
(a) Death refers to the separation of the soul/spirit and body. In the Jewish understanding, your soul went to Sheol (or Hades) after death.
(b) Hades is the Greek word for Sheol, the Old Testament abode of the dead (see entry for Matt. 16:18). Since there is no more death, there is no further need of Hades
(c) The lake of fire is a picture of the second and final death. The lake of fire and brimstone or the fiery lake of burning sulfur is mentioned five times in scripture (Rev. 19:20, 20:10, 14, 15, 21:8).
The following people end up in the lake of fire; the beast and false prophet (Rev 19:20); the devil (Rev. 20:10); death and Hades (Rev. 20:14); and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15).
(d) Second death. According to rabbinical tradition, the second death refers to the ultimate extinction of the wicked. It’s the ultimate outcome for those who reject the gift of life (John 5:40, 10:28). See entry for Rev. 2:11.
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
(a) The Book of Life is the heavenly register of those who inherit eternal life. It is a register of the citizens of the kingdom of God. See entry for Rev. 3:5.
(b) The lake of fire; see previous verse.
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