In considering the reality of the coming kingdom of God on earth, we have in previous messages examined the first stages of the kingdom of God: the Acts Period, the Premillennial Kingdom, and the Revolt Against the Kingdom. Yet three stages remain. In our last message, we considered the first of these: the Thousand Year Parousia of Jesus Christ. We considered how it differs from the premillennial kingdom that precedes it, and what marks its character. Now, we will consider what comes after the thousand years, and the brief period that follows it which bridges the gap from the Parousia to the New Heavens and the New Earth.
The Little Season
The next time period after the Parousia of Jesus Christ that we read of in Revelation is called “The Little Season.” A “season” as we would think of it is about ninety days, so we might wonder what a “little season” would be? The phrase in Greek is mikron chronon, which means literally “a little time,” so it may have nothing to do with a “season.” However, we would think that the time is shorter than a year, and perhaps even shorter than a season.
The name for this period comes from a verse we have already considered, Revelation 20:3, “and he cast him (Satan) into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.” In the old King James Version, those last words read “a little season,” and thus we have our only given name for the period.
Revelation 20:7. Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison
The little season begins when the thousand years have expired. This shows us that this is the next stage in the plan after the Thousand Year Parousia of Jesus Christ. Some people have tried to make out that the “thousand years” are simply symbolic for Christ’s glorious reign which will last forever. However, this can hardly be the case. For one thing, whenever a number of years is symbolic in the Bible, it is only symbolic because it also is literal, such as the forty years’ wandering in the wilderness, which certainly was a symbolic period, but was also quite literal. Secondly, we read here that the thousand years come and they go, just like any other period of a thousand years might be expected to do. The word “expired” is the Greek teleo, which is the plain word for “end.” The thousand years do end. They are not symbolic for something that does not end.
We discussed previously that all things that could stumbling and all people or beings that could cause stumbling are removed from the earth during the thousand years of Jesus Christ’s personal presence. After the expiration of the thousand years, Satan will be released from his prison in The Abyss. Suddenly, an element that very much could cause stumbling is introduced back into the world.
8. and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.
While we might wonder if Satan learned anything from his thousand years of imprisonment, the answer quickly becomes obvious that he did not. Upon being released, the first thing he does is go out to attempt to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, God and Magog, to gather them together to battle. Yet the whole point of the Revolt Against the Kingdom was supposed to be that it was the final revolt of all, and that after that no man would rebel. Is this gathering of nations just the Revolt Against the Kingdom all over again?
The Testing of Eve
When we discussed the great test of people on earth that is the Revolt Against the Kingdom, we compared it to the test God put Adam and Eve (or Isha, as she was called at the time) to when they were in the garden. He might have left them in their perfect condition always, and yet He wanted their love to be voluntary, not forced. Thus, He gave them a choice, and sadly they went the wrong way. However, let us consider the difference in sin between the two of them.
Paul in I Timothy 2:14 tells us a very interesting fact about the difference between Adam and Eve in the transgression. He says, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” From this, we learn that Eve was truly fooled by the serpent. She thought that God really was holding back on them by not letting them eat the fruit, as the serpent suggested. She thought it really would be a benefit to her if she ate of it. As Paul says, she was deceived.
Adam, on the other hand, was not deceived. He realized that God was not holding back on them by forbidding them to eat the forbidden fruit. The knowledge of good and evil would cost them their lives, and he knew God didn’t want that. He knew that the serpent’s words were a lie. Yet, he ate the fruit anyway. We can only speculate why he did it. I think perhaps once Eve had eaten he figured he would rather die with Eve than live without her. But the bottom line is that he was not deceived. Therefore, his sin was open rebellion against God, rather than rebellion due to deception.
Now if we would compare the sin of Adam and the sin of Eve, we might say in many ways that Adam’s was worse. He knew he was doing the wrong thing, and yet he did it anyway. That is how men will rebel in the Revolt Against the Kingdom. They will know very well that they are turning against God, the Lord of the kingdom, and that they are sinning against Him, and yet they will do so anyway. Their sin was the sin of Adam, the sin of willful rebellion against God. Thus the Revolt Against the Kingdom test truly was the testing of Adam. Yet the result of it was that all such rebels were eliminated. This was the last willful rebellion there will ever be on earth, and the testing of the revolt eliminated all who would rebel.
Yet now, a thousand more years have passed. New generations of children have been born who have known only the glories of the Parousia. They have learned from the lessons of the past, and will not willfully rebel against God. Yet what of the sin of Eve? What if some clever deceiver comes along and spins a believable story to them? In this case, though they may not be willingly rebelling, yet through deception they will sin and be in the transgression regardless. Thus this testing of the Little Season is a testing after the manner of Eve. It is to see if those who have lived so close to Jesus Christ for so long have learned to trust His ways completely, or if they have failed to do so and might still be deceived into going the wrong way. They should not be deceivable, if they have clung closely to God as they should. Yet some of them will be.
Thus they are tested, and some fail the test. Those who fail are described as “the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog.” This does not mean that every last individual in these nations will be deceived, by any means. Indeed, we might well hope that most will not be deceived. Yet there are those who are deceived from all nations on earth, and who will allow themselves to be talked into gathering together for battle after a thousand years of no war! The number of these is as the sand of the sea. This does not mean it is incredibly large, but just that it is uncounted. Let us pray, as I said, that the percentage of people who allow Satan to deceive them at this point is small.
9. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.
These deceived individuals from all nations go up on the breadth of the earth and surround the camp of the saints, even the beloved city. Of course, this means Jerusalem, the city where Christ dwells and the capital of the Kingdom. What exactly they have been deceived to think they are doing it is hard to say. Obviously for some reason they think this is what they should do. So they surround Jerusalem. This does not have to mean they surround it with men a hundred deep. Even a single file of people twenty yards apart could surround a city. Thus there is nothing here to tell us whether the number will be small or large. We will have to wait for that day to see how many are still capable of being deceived.
Yet even the fact that they surround the city is rebellion, albeit by deception, against the Lord, for they have no business marching to war against His dwelling place and surrounding it like an enemy. After the glories of the Parousia, there is no excuse for such behavior. Therefore no mercy is extended to them. What they planned to do next is hard to say. Were they going to make demands? Were they going to storm the city? Who knows? But at this point their plan, whatever it is, is quickly curtailed. Fire comes down from God out of heaven and devours them where they stand. They are cut out of the kingdom immediately preceding the New Heavens and the New Earth. They have failed the second kingdom test, the testing after the manner of Eve.
10. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
The devil who deceived them is then dealt with. The name “devil” means “false accuser,” and maybe he made these deceived ones believe some false report against the people of Jerusalem? At any rate, leaving such speculations aside, the devil is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And yet that word “are” is not present in Greek. After a thousand years, the destruction of those two wicked lackeys of the devil has long since been accomplished. Thus this should read “were thrown” rather than “are.”
Are these three wicked beings really “tormented day and night forever and ever”? This would mean that wickedness will never truly be done away with, for these three wicked ones will always be alive and in rebellion. Yet I do not believe that this is really what this means. The word “tormented” might better be translated “severely tested.” They will be put to the test for all their wicked activities, and needless to say will be found very lacking. They will be allowed no rest, for this test will go on day and night.
“Forever and ever” is a childish phrase first of all, for if something lasts “forever” how can it also last “and ever”? Secondly, it is a completely inadequate translation of the Greek here, eis tous aionas ton aionon. This might be better translated “in respect to the eons of the eons.” These wicked beings will have flowed out in many ways to cause sin and rebellion. They will be tested severely for all those things. But those wicked things they flowed out with will have also caused other results and ramifications that were also wicked. They may not have been directly responsible for these things, but their wickedness brought them about. Thus they are severely tested in respect to not just their own wicked outflowings, but the further wicked outflowings that came out of those outflowings. The devil then is severely tested to the last degree. That is what this phrase means.
Once the devil has been thoroughly tested regarding all the wickedness he did, and regarding all the further wickedness he caused, he will be cast into the lake of fire. There he will be destroyed. Then the long-promised fate of Satan from Ezekiel 28:18-19 will at last have fallen upon him.
18. “You defiled your sanctuaries
By the multitude of your iniquities,
By the iniquity of your trading;
Therefore I brought fire from your midst;
It devoured you,
And I turned you to ashes upon the earth
In the sight of all who saw you.
19. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you;
You have become a horror,
And shall be no more forever.”’”
11. Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.
Next in order after the destruction of the devil is the last great judgment, called the Great White Throne. The One Who sits on this throne is terrible, so that the earth and heaven itself would flee away from Him rather than face His wrath at this time. Yet men will have little choice but to appear before Him for judgment! It could also be that this is a reference to the fact that the earth and heaven are about to be destroyed and remade into the New Heavens and New Earth, so that no place is found for this current creation.
12. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
The dead are raised to be judged. This phrase “small and great” is a Hebrew figure of speech meaning “every last one of them.” This leaves us with the obvious question as to how long this judgment will take? If the dead, small and great, stand before God, how many is that? I believe this will include all men not raised in a prior resurrection, and not thrown into the lake of fire at any time prior to this. There will be a great number of men to be tried at this judgment. If we imagine each one’s trial taking only fifteen minutes, which would not be long for a trial, it would still seem that it would take thousands of years for everyone to appear before God, the Lord Jesus Christ, for trial. How can this judgment take place in a “Little Season,” then?
I think, though, that if we think hard enough about this, we should realize that this really isn’t a problem. Remember that God has chosen men from all down through history to make them part of His kingdom ekklesia. Then in the Revolt more were chosen as overcomers who have reigned with Christ for a thousand years. These people have been made the Body of Christ, and have been allowed to represent Him. Well, why would God have chosen all these people and made them His representatives if, as soon as something important comes along, He refuses to allow them to work on His behalf? I believe that the dead, small and great, will stand before God by standing before His government. He will be with them in the form of His Holy Spirit in every court throughout the land. Yet thousands of courts running at once will be able to get through all these people in no time. These people will appear before God by appearing before His Body, every one of whom are inspired by His Spirit. They will be judged exactly as Christ would have judged them personally, for His representatives who have been doing His work for over a thousand years will judge them. After all, what makes us think that any of these men deserve to stand before Christ personally?
So that is one mystery solved. But then what exactly is this judgment like, and how is it carried out? It involves “books” and “another book, which is the Book of Life.” How exactly do these books interact? First we are told what was in “the books.” They contain the works of the dead ones being judged. They are judged, that is, set in order, based on the works that are written in the books. Those books might indicate a harsh punishment or a lesser one, shame and humiliation or commendation. Whatever works they contain, that is how these people will be set in order.
13. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
No one is excluded from this last, great resurrection. Those who drowned in the sea are raised, those who are in death and Hades, the state of death prior to resurrection, are also raised. No man who has not yet had his day in court is missed out on in this last, Great White Throne judgment. Each man is set in order, and each one according to the work he did. Then the deeds of men will be considered in full and paid back by proper judgment.
14. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
At this time Death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire. Hades once again is the state of death with resurrection in view. We might wonder how the state of being dead could be cast into the lake of fire? The idea is contained in the second half of the verse. This results in the second death. The reality is that the death we die in Adam is not a permanent one. Jesus Christ died on the cross to reverse the death that came upon all through Adam’s sin. Thus, those who have died the first death always have the hope of resurrection before them. Both Sheol and Hades represent the death-state with this possibility of resurrection hanging over it. Yet once Hades is destroyed in the lake of fire, death as a temporary state is no longer a possibility. This idea of being dead and yet awaiting a future awakening will be no more. Now death becomes destruction. Now to enter into death means to enter into the lake of fire, from which there is no arising. Those who are judged worthy of death at this Great White Throne, then, are judged in a way that will never be reversed. When they die, that death is permanent. When they die, that death is destruction.
15. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Now we learn about “the Book of Life.” This book is mentioned multiple times in Scripture. The first reference to it appears to be in the book of Exodus, when Moses is pleading to the LORD for the people of Israel after their great sin with the golden calf.
Exodus 32:32. Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”
33. And the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.
This shows us that the LORD can blot names of those who sin against Him out of this book. This is what seems to be the only clear mention of the Book of Life in the Old Testament, though it is not called by that name. Yet when it comes to the New Testament, we have several references to it. The only one that is not by John in Revelation, however, is in the writings of Paul during our current Dispensation of Grace. Paul mentions the fact that his fellow workers’ names are in the Book of Life in Philippians 4:3 (here in The Resultant Version):
3. I request you also, true Suzuges, be of assistance to those women who are such as labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
This reference shows us that the Book of Life does not just come into play at the Great White Throne, but that those who are raised in the earlier resurrections long before the final resurrection will also have their names in the Book of Life. Thus this Book comes into play in all the resurrections, though it is not specifically mentioned in the Bible in connection with any specific resurrection other than that at the Great White Throne during the Little Season.
The rest of the references to the Book of Life are all in Revelation. First, the Lord Jesus might blot out someone’s name from the Book of Life, as is mentioned in Revelation 3:5.
5. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
This fact should not surprise us, since in Exodus 32:33 Jehovah said that He would blot names of those who sinned against Him out of His book, and we know that the Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Lord Jesus Christ of the New. Thus in the Old Testament we find that Jehovah blots names out of His book, and in the New Testament we find that the Lord Jesus Christ blots names out of the Book of Life. This makes good sense, since these Two are the same.
Those who rebelled in the Revolt Against the Kingdom did so because their names were not written in the Book of Life, as Revelation 13:8 tells us.
8. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Those who marvel at the beast and follow him are not written in the Book of Life, as Revelation 17:8 tells us.
8. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
In light of these things, we would propose that the Book of Life is a book in which God alone may write the names of all who are His. One’s name may be blotted out from there as well as written there, yet again it is only God Who has the right to either write or blot out a name from this Book. The final fate of all men when it comes to resurrection to life or else to the lake of fire is in God’s hands, and this is symbolized by the Book of Life. Whether this is really a book, or whether it is some other kind of record that we cannot understand, or whether it is merely something in the mind of God, the reality of it is that God’s choice is what determines whether or not someone has Life who is raised at the Great White Throne, or at any other time, for that matter.
So back in Revelation 20:15, along with the books containing their works, this Book of Life is also being consulted as every member of Adam’s race not previously raised is raised and judged. We know that if their names are written there, they need not fear the second death. They may be judged out of the books of works, and that judgment may result in punishment and humiliation. Yet they are free from the fear of utter destruction as long as their names are found in the Book of Life.
Where will they then go? I do not know. Surely, if they did not pass through the Premillennial Kingdom and the Parousia of Jesus Christ and pass both tests, they will not be allowed to jump into the New Heavens and New Earth at this time. But where else might they live? Other planets? Who knows? But God will find a place for them that is right. We will leave such distribution of men judged at this time in His hands.
If their names are not found in the Book of Life, however, they are cast into the lake of fire. The books containing their works, in this case, only serve to justify the grim sentence of destruction that has fallen upon them. They will find their end in the lake of fire, and they will never again rise to trouble God’s creation with their wickedness. They have come to an end to make way for a new and better day wherein such men as they were will not be welcome.
So this is the “Little Season,” at least, if we can include both the Satan rebellion and the Great White Throne in that same season. (Would it not surprise us if they are not both part of it, and a period of time actually intervenes in between? It is hard to say regarding this far-future time, and God may yet surprise us, as He did with the Dispensation of Grace.) At any rate, assuming that what we have said so far is correct, this season sees the second and final testing of men to bring them from the Parousia of Jesus Christ into the New Heavens and the New Earth. This test is to eliminate those who sin after the manner of Eve (that is, letting themselves be led into sin through deception), as the first test was to eliminate those who sin after the manner of Adam (knowing they are doing the wrong thing, and yet doing it anyway). Then, all who have not been raised previously will be raised and judged in God’s court, which will probably be carried on in many thousands of locations at once through those who are privileged to be His Body. All men will be judged to receive their final place, whether destruction or otherwise. This gets everything ready for the final period the Bible lists for us: the New Heavens and the New Earth.