The day of judgement

It's a good thing Justice is Blind

Originally uploaded by R.Mutt

On Saturday we were lounging around in Paul’s conservatory listening to Karl Jenkin’s Requiem in anticipation of the evening’s concert. The Dies Irae is so arresting that conversation turned to what the day of judgement actually was. I remember Richard Jupp talking about it at one of our local Alpha Courses. In particular I remember him referencing the Book of Revelations and saying that the dead do not see heaven until the day of judgement. I decided to look it up. It took a while to find but the relevant chapter appears to be Revelations 20 It is a bit confusing though. Here’s the whole chapter:

1And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

2And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

3And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

4And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

6Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

7And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

8And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

9And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

10And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

11And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

My first impression, without reading any commentaries, is that the first section (Revelations 20:4) says that those who died for their witness of Jesus (and had not worshiped Satan) lived and reigned with Christ. I took this to mean immediately, e.g. before the day of judgement. Looking at it again that appears to be past tense though: “they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years”. So let’s fast-foward to the rest of us. “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God […] the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them”. I’m not sure what this use of “death” as a place alongside “the sea” and “hell” means, but it seems to suggest Richard Jupp was right – you don’t see heaven until after judgement day. Another intriguing bit was the actual judgement. I’ve always understood from my evangelical Christian friends that if you are offered Christianity and refuse it (like me, I’m an atheist) that you do not go to heaven. And yet this passage seems to suggest rather that “they were judged every man according to their works”, i.e. it is what you do, not necessarily your motivation for doing it, that’s important.

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