Revelation 20:13

Sunday, 1 August 2021

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. Revelation 20:13

The previous verse noted that “the dead were judged according to their works.” What was recorded of their lives is brought forth for them to face in the final judgment. With that stated first, the categories of where the dead are is only now noted, beginning with, “The sea gave up the dead who were in it.”

There is, as with everything in Revelation, debate as to what “the sea” means. Is this the literal sea, or is it a symbol of the nations that has previously been used? In this case, it is probably the literal sea. There is no need to allegorize this. The Old Testament makes a distinction between those who died on the land from those on the sea. Though poetic, Jonah equates drowning in the sea to the pit –

“The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;
The deep closed around me;
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
I went down to the moorings of the mountains;
The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;
Yet You have brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord, my God.” Jonah 2:5, 6

It is probably for the reader’s benefit that a distinction is noted concerning the dead in the sea. Those who fail to understand the Lord’s authority over all things might assume that those who died in the sea would be safe from final judgment. Such is not the case. In noting this, it is an assurance that all who drowned in the Flood of Noah, and throughout the ages, will be included in the tally. Along with those in the sea, it next says, “and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.”

In Revelation 1:18, Jesus is said to possess the keys to Hades and Death. These entities are noted again in verse 6:8. Here, like in 6:8, they are being personified. In this verse, they are treated as if they are living entities that have control over the souls of those who have died in time past. But if Christ has the keys to them, then He is the one with ultimate control over them. As such, John next notes, “And they were judged, each one according to his works.”

It is a repeated thought from the previous verse. All people, regardless as to who they are, when they lived, or where they died, will be gathered together for the final judgment before God. Their deeds will testify to their lives, and they will be judged with the perfect judgment of God.

Life application: The sea is noted along with Death and Hades to ensure us that there is no place from which the souls of men will not be searched out for judgment. Those who died in the waters, reaching back even to the Flood of Noah and those who died in the earth, all will be resurrected for judgment.

Every human who has ever existed is remembered by God and will be brought before the great white throne. Death has not separated them from this final act because man was made to be a soul/body unity. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul describes the soul without a body as “naked.” In order for man to be in a state which is suitable for judgment, it appears their soul will be reunited with a real, physical body.

Those who are not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life will find an eternity of punishment awaiting them. People who see fault in this are only finding fault in themselves. A finite sin against an infinite God demands an infinite punishment – and all have sinned.

God never changes, and His righteousness is a part of His very nature. When a sin is committed, it is a violation against that nature, and therefore it will be there in a minute, in an hour, in a day, in a year, in 1000 years, and so on for all of eternity. The sin committed in time, which God created, will exist as long as time exists. Time, space, and matter occurred at the same moment of creation, and so as long as space and matter exist, time will be associated with it. And because man is a physical being, the stain of that sin remains as long as that physical being remains.

Thus, there are only two possibilities to handle the sin problem: 1) That it be covered by an act of justice which will eternally satisfy God’s righteousness (which is eternal), or 2) that the sin be judged and eternally punished. And there is only one act of justice that can eternally satisfy a sin against God. A suitable Substitute must be found. It must be one in the same category (an animal cannot satisfy a sin for a human) and one that is sinless (for example a baby even though it has not committed a sin has still inherited Adam’s sin nature). If such a substitute is found, the penalty for sin may be taken out on that substitute.

Only Jesus was and is sinless because He was born of the Holy Spirit and a woman – no sin was transferred through a human father. And yet, Jesus is fully Man because He was born of the Holy Spirit and a human mother. Further, Jesus never sinned during His life. Therefore, He is a qualified Substitute. If the payment rendered on Jesus’ cross is accepted, then the sin can never be punished again.

Because He is fully God, His atonement is eternal. His covering will continue as long as He continues, and He will continue for eternity. Despite people claiming that it is somehow unfair that Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God, it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God. And unfairness is a non-starter because “all have sinned,” and thus what is fair is that all go to the Lake of Fire; that is fair.

Anyone who doesn’t go to the Lake of Fire receives mercy because of what Jesus did. Anyone who doesn’t come through Jesus will receive what is already due them. The judgment at the great white throne is one of “works.” Therefore, there are two possibilities. The first is to have suitable works –

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’” John 6:29

The second is to have unsuitable works –

“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. … Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:20 & 28

The greatest sadness to be found in this judgment will be in those who have trusted in their own goodness and good deeds to justify themselves in the sight of God. They will come into His presence assured of their own righteousness, and they will be severely disappointed when the gavel comes down in judgment against them because of an issue they never thought through – the inherently fallen state of man in the presence of pure holiness.

If you have never accepted Christ’s righteousness, today would be a good time to do so. Eternity is a very long time, and the Lake of Fire is a very unpleasant destination. Be sure to come to God through His offer of peace and reconciliation. Come to Him today through JESUS!

Jesus, we know that we are unworthy of Your goodness and the gift of Your righteousness, but we accept it by faith. Cover us with Your precious blood. In this, we know that we will be eternally secure from the righteous judgment that we are due. Thank You for Your white garments of righteousness that allow us to be restored to God. Thank You Jesus, thank You. Amen.