The imagery of the Great White throne comes specifically from Revelation 20. However, we also find this same throne of judgment, alternately described, in the parable we find in Matthew 25; this is the parable of the sheep and the goats.
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them. And judgment was given to them, and the souls of the ones having been beheaded because of the witness of Jesus, and because of the Word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast nor its image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand. And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4 LITV)
Sitting upon thrones judging, these are those that were martyred during the seven years of wrath upon the earth. Yes, they were killed, but they are resurrected at the beginning of the millennial reign – the first resurrection – and reign with Christ throughout the thousand years. They are not included among the dead gathered at the throne.
But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. (Revelation 20:5 LITV)
With Christs death and resurrection came the age of grace. This period will end with the rapture of the church.
Those who have died prior to the age of grace:
Those who died in compliance with the Law of Moses
Those who died without the law, the nations
Maybe all have been in Abraham’s bosom much like the beggar Lazarus.
Because Jesus told us the parable about Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16), we know that there was a protected place separated by an impassable gulf, and that those not in the protected place are in torment.
Let me start by saying that this is a broad generalization. My example is the parable of Lazarus the beggar and the rich man. We find out that the rich man was a Jew, and as such, expected by those listening, to be in Abraham’s bosom, because for them, rich meant righteous.
In general, the nations would be considered outside of the law.
Did those who died prior to grace, have a chance? My response is, absolutely. I have spoken of this before with people. The problem is I am typically talking with religious people who absolutely will not allow God to work outside the limits they have placed on Him, nor will they listen to anything other than the tradition they understand. The responses have sounded like Hank Hannegraf’s in that they say it is blasphemy to suggest such a thing. Sounds like I am talking with Jews doesn’t it, but they are not. They are people who claim a relationship with Jesus, just like me.
Look, God did not begin the sacrifice for sin without reason. The sacrifice was symbolic of what His Son was to carry out, and as such, an example of hope. That hope came in the form of Jesus bringing grace to the dead as well. This could only happen because Jesus went to where they were and preached to them.
Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:8-10 ESV)
Jesus went down there and took the keys.
“.. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:18 ESV)
Jesus death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, brought the age of grace.
This grace period will end with the removal of the church from the earth.
The dead in Christ
Those alive at His return
Will rise from the grave.
We who are alive will be caught up to meet them in the air, and we will all be together with the Lord.
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. 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. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 ESV)
The rapture: the removal of the church from the earth. The end of the age of grace and the beginning of the time of wrath.
Everyone else – “the nations.”
Matthew 25 tells us of the ten virgins – all invited to the same wedding. Five are ready and five are not. It is probable that this represents the condition of the church today, and therefore means that fifty percent are not ready, not watching for Jesus to return.
After the rapture I strongly suspect many will hear the wake-up call, but alas, the age of grace will be gone. Therefore. anyone coming to the Lord from this time on, will have to prove their allegiance to Him. It will, probably, cost them their heads.
Who else will come to Jesus during this time. There are no restrictions, all are welcome, and many of those left behind will see the benefit of coming to Jesus; a long-term benefit that far surpasses whatever pain and discomfort they are in. They will come from every nation, tribe, and tongue, and they will all die as martyrs.
The Apostle John, as he looked into heaven, saw the martyred saints before the throne on two occasions. On the second occasion their number was uncountable.
We are, at this point, only concerned with those that die during the years of wrath.
Let me make something clear. There are only three people groups in the world; the Jews, the nations, and the church. Because the church will be gone at the rapture we still have to consider the Jews and the nations. DO NOT assume, that the nations are merely Islamic terrorists. It merely means any one who does not belong to Christ and not a Jew.
Not everyone within the nations will be trying to kill you. They, likely, will be trying to escape from Islam just as you are.
Because God is pouring out his wrath on the earth, many will die from those events alone. However, the armies of the Antichrist, empowered by Satan himself, will still be actively killing off opponents if Islam.
Scripture tells us that three and one half years into the time of wrath, the beast will turn up the heat. Jesus called this a time of “great tribulation”. In other words, if you think it is bad now, it will get worse, and sadly, there are people in the world that are thinking, it could not get much worse, but it will.
The time of wrath has ended and everyone settles into the millennial reign.
Will there be any dead during this time? Absolutely.
And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the LORD afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. (Zechariah 14:18 ESV)
The plagues we see in the Old Testament, killed off thousands at a time.
One of the questions I get is: will there be any sinners going into the millennial reign?
The prophet Zechariah tells us that there will be, for leaders from among the nations will continue in their arrogance.
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. (Zechariah 14:16-18 KJV)
How is it possible that anyone would be left of the nations which came against God?
If you have paid attention to the world going on around you, then you would know that an accepted practice among practitioners of the Qur’an, is the rape of Kafirs, that would be anyone outside of Islam, even Muslim women that do not cover everything but their eyes are not safe. This is not intended to be a bashing session, this is open teachings and practices of Islam. As soon as a Muslim child can comprehend it is taught to hate Jews, Christians, and anyone outside of Islam. The desire and ability to kill Kafirs is indoctrinated into Muslim children at a very early age. So, what am I doing? Assuming, but I am basing my assumptions on logical, demonstrated events and facts.
How does that apply to the possibility that God would leave any “enemies” alive? God is merciful. We do not see many Muslim women engaging in combat, and here in America, we do not put teen boys into war. That is not the case with Islam. Even worse though, is the anger and violence instilled within preschool age children. It is possible that God does not hold these, that did not take part, responsible for the actions of those that did.
Because we see God’s directive in Zechariah 14:16-18, we know that those that chose not to bow before of their own free will, will be made to bow before Him, for seven days, during the yearly Feast of Tabernacles. Failure to do so will be costly, and the second offense brings death by plague.
This then really answers three questions, does it not?
Sin can and will be brought into the millennial reign, but without Satan’s push. People will die, even from old age. And not everyone is slaughtered by God during the time of wrath.
One last point about sin that appears to happen during the millennial reign.
Why does Paul have to point out this list of sins that will not get to enter the kingdom?
Think about it. Christ having died and rose again, put away all sin, therefore we will not be judged for sin, but we will be judged for what we did with God’s Son, Jesus Christ. I accepted him into my life and He gladly received me; from that point on I am covered by his blood, and when God looks at me, all He sees is the blood of His Son.
If there is sin in the millennial kingdom, it is certainly not coming from Satan, he has been bound for the thousand years; it is not coming from believers, nor is it coming from the previously martyred saints, for they now reign – as law keepers – over the earth with Christ. There is still one large cause, which you cannot ignore – the Nations.
Consider 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)
men who practice homosexuality
revilers – those who seem to have the habit of degrading people.
Paul wrote this letter to a church body, many of whom were Jewish converts. Ascertaining the context takes you all the way back to chapter 5:1, where Paul addresses what he has heard about them. And in essence, Paul is telling them to handle it. You will see this as you follow his logic. But, as I pointed out, this is a letter to the church and not necessarily applicable to a scenario in heaven.
The scenario we see in Revelation 22:14,15 is:
Revelation 22:14-15 ESV (14) Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. (15) Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
John is describing those who have washed their robes. That washing of robes may have come through our acceptance of Christ during the age of grace, or it may be an aspect of the martyred saints, but because of its placement in the story there is the possibility that the nations will have this opportunity as well. Having washed their robes, they have access to the tree of life, and entrance into the city through the gates. (This is that tree spoken of in the garden, the same one Adam and Eve had to be prevented from accessing.)
I already pointed out that there will be survivors among the nations going into the millennial reign, and that they will come to Jerusalem once a year and bow for seven days, as they take part in the feast Tabernacles. They will bring their selfish nature and choices with them into this period. Having been changed in the twinkling of an eye, we will not bring our old, sour natures into the millennial kingdom, so Paul and John are not talking to us; washed by the blood of the lamb, the martyred saints will no longer have their old natures, so they are not being addressed by Paul and John either.
Who then is John, in particular, speaking about? The nations, they are the only ones left, and though they no longer have Satan pushing them to make lousy decisions, they have habits and patterns they are accustomed to following. Therefore, God has to set the boundaries for who can and cannot have access to “the tree of life” and the city.
Look at how clearly John paints the picture of what potentially continues outside the city – “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Perhaps this answers the question of why God would want or need so many to reign over the earth. Scripture does not tell us how they administer justice, nor does it tell us how swiftly. Even still I can see God’s mercy, because I would have consumed then like dust. None the less here they are, still milling about doing selfish stuff.
I was asked, how then do they come to know God? It would seem that there are two possibilities, but only one makes sense. I will explain. If God saw fit to rebuild everything, including the temple, why then would there not be the opportunity to sacrifice for sins? Here is the problem I have with this. Jesus, was the last sacrifice. However, it seems there is another way.
Revelation 22:2 ESV through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
I looked up the Greek word for healing, and one of its meanings is cure. Rather enlightening. Beyond this I can only guess, as I have nothing more that clarifies how people will come to an acceptance of God’s kingship, but it is clear that they do.
Here is the grand finale. After a thousand years of peace – maintained by an innumerable amount of martyred saints who will reign over the earth – Satan is released and deceives the nations. We make the assumption that this means all, but that is never the case. There are plenty of examples of the bible using the word all, and yet it is clear that not “all” were there; such is the case with the three Hebrew children on the day they were tossed into the fiery furnace. Daniel was not there. Therefore, not “all” those among the nations will be deceived. I know, you still do not see how that would be possible. Look at this example in Acts 13.
Acts 13:6-12 ESV When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. (7) He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. (8) But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. (9) But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him (10) and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? (11) And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. (12) Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
Sergius Paulus saw the power of God and believed. There is nothing to exclude the nations from seeing the power of God, hearing the word about Him, and believing.
Do you not see it? God is still giving these people the chance to choose whom they will willingly serve. True, in earlier ages they could choose not to bow, but that grace is now gone.
I am thoroughly convinced that Jesus is coming shortly; why take the chance, when turning your life to Him is as simple as the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him. Ask Jesus Christ to come into your life. Give it all to Him and know that your home in eternity is guaranteed.