Revelation 20:11
And 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) And I saw a great white throne . . .—Or, And I saw a great white throne, and Him that was seated thereon, from whose face fled the earth and the heaven, and place was not found for them. The throne is described as great and white, to set it in strong contrast to other thrones mentioned in the book, e.g., Revelation 4:4; Revelation 20:4. It is a white throne, in token of the purity of the judgment which follows. He who sits upon it is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. It is asked, Who is He that is seated here? Throughout the book God is called “Him that sitteth upon the throne” (Revelation 4:3; Revelation 5:1); but we must not understand this as excluding the Son of God, who sits with His Father on His throne (Revelation 3:21), and who, as Son of Man, declared that He would sit upon the throne of His glory and divide “all the nations” as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-32; comp. also Revelation 6:16; Revelation 11:15-18). At the face of Him who sits upon the throne the heaven and earth flee. Hengstenberg interprets this of the putting out of the way “all of the irrational creation which had been pressed into the service of sin.” Gebhardt interprets it of “the destruction of the whole present visible world.” A comparison, however, of the imagery employed in Revelation 6:12-14; Revelation 16:19-20, should make us cautious of asserting that any great physical catastrophe is described here. Doubtless revolution must precede renewal (Revelation 21:1); but it is never safe to ground our expectations of the nature of such changes upon language which is confessedly poetical in form. Some physical revolutions do in all probability await our earth, but the eye of the prophet looks more to the moral and spiritual regeneration of the world—more to the spiritual well-being of mankind, than to any physical changes which may synchronise with the culmination of the world’s moral history.

Revelation 20:11. The course of these prophecies, after many important visions describing the state of the church and world in this present life, brings us at last to the great and final judgment, when the whole scene and mystery of Providence shall be finished. Then the great doctrine which runs through the whole of these prophecies will be fully verified, namely, that truth and righteousness shall surely prevail in the end, against error and all iniquity; eternal happiness shall be the reward of the faithful, and everlasting destruction the punishment of the wicked. This is represented as a sixth period of Providence, after which there will be in the seventh period an everlasting sabbath; a state of eternal rest and happiness for all the righteous, and of the most perfect worship of God, in the praises and devotions of the heavenly church. — Lowman. And I saw — A representation of the great day of the Lord; a great white throne — How great who can say? White — With the glory of God, and to show the holiness, justice, and equity of him that sits on it, the Lord Jesus. The apostle does not attempt to describe him here; he only adds that circumstance, far above all description; from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away — At least the aerial, if not also the starry heaven; and there was found no place for them — But they were wholly dissolved; the very elements melting with fervent heat. It is not said they were thrown into great commotions, but they fell into dissolution; not they removed to a distant place, but there was found no place for them: at least as to their present state; they ceased to exist, they were no more. See on 2 Peter 3:7-13. And all this, not at the strict command of the Lord Jesus, not at his awful presence, or before his fiery indignation, but at the bare presence of his Majesty, sitting with severe, but adorable dignity, on his throne.20:11-15 After the events just foretold, the end will speedily come; and there is no mention of any thing else, before the appearing of Christ to judge the world. This will be the great day: the Judge, the Lord Jesus Christ, will then put on majesty and terror. The persons to be judged are the dead, small and great; young and old, low and high, poor and rich. None are so mean, but they have some talents to account for; and none so great, as to avoid having to account for them. Not only those alive at the coming of Christ, but all the dead. There is a book of remembrance both for good and bad: and the book of the sinner's conscience, though formerly secret, will then be opened. Every man will recollect all his past actions, though he had long forgotten many of them. Another book shall be opened, the book of the Scriptures, the rule of life; it represents the Lord's knowledge of his people, and his declaring their repentance, faith, and good works; showing the blessings of the new covenant. By their works men shall be justified or condemned; he will try their principles by their practices. Those justified and acquitted by the gospel, shall be justified and acquitted by the Judge, and shall enter into eternal life, having nothing more to fear from death, or hell, or wicked men; for these are all destroyed together. This is the second death; it is the final separation of sinners from God. Let it be our great concern to see whether our Bibles justify or condemn us now; for Christ will judge the secrets of all men according to the gospel. Who shall dwell with devouring flames?And I saw a great white throne - This verse commences the description of the final judgment, which embraces the remainder of the chapter. The first thing seen in the vision is the burning throne of the Judge. The things that are specified in regard to it are, that it was "great," and that it was "white." The former expression means that it was high or elevated. Compare Isaiah 6:1. The latter expression - white - means that it was "splendid or shining." Compare 1 Kings 10:18-20. The throne here is the same which is referred to in Matthew 25:31, and called there "the throne of his glory."

And him that sat on it - The reference here undoubtedly is to the Lord Jesus Christ, the final Judge of mankind (compare Matthew 25:31), and the scene described is what will occur at his second advent.

From whose face - Or, from whose presence; though the word may be used here to denote more strictly his face - as illuminated, and shining like the sun. See Revelation 1:16, "And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength."

The earth and the heaven fled away - That is, as the stars, at the rising of the sun, seem to flee to more remote regions, and vanish from human view, so when the Son of God shall descend in his glory to judge the world, the earth and all other worlds shall seem to vanish. Every one must admire the sublimity of this image; no one can contemplate it without being awed by the majesty and glory of the final Judge of mankind. Similar expressions, where the natural creation shrinks back with awe at the presence of God, frequently occur in the Bible. Compare Psalm 18:7-15; Psalm 77:16-19; Psalm 114:3-5; Habakkuk 3:6, Habakkuk 3:10-11.

And there was found no place for them - They seemed to flee "entirely away," as if there was "no" place where they could find a safe retreat, or which would receive and shelter them in their flight. The image expresses, in the most emphatic manner, the idea that they entirely disappeared, and no language could more sublimely represent the majesty of the Judge.

11. great—in contrast to the "thrones," Re 20:4.

white—the emblem of purity and justice.

him that sat on it—the Father [Alford]. Rather, the Son, to whom "the Father hath committed all judgment." God in Christ, that is, the Father represented by the Son, is He before whose judgment-seat we must all stand. The Son's mediatorial reign is with a view to prepare the kingdom for the Father's acceptance. When He has done that, He shall give it up to the Father, "that God may be all in all," coming into direct communion with His creatures, without intervention of a Mediator, for the first time since the fall. Heretofore Christ's Prophetical mediation had been prominent in His earthly ministry, His Priestly mediation is prominent now in heaven between His first and second advents, and His Kingly shall be so during the millennium and at the general judgment.

earth and heaven fled away—The final conflagration, therefore, precedes the general judgment. This is followed by the new heaven and earth (Re 21:1-27).

God now giveth his prophet a vision of the last day, the day of judgment. He seeth

a throne, a place of judicature; said to be great, to denote its gloriousness;

white, to signify Christ’s purity and holiness in his judging the world. And he saw Christ sitting upon it, and all old things passing away. Peter thus describes this flying away of the earth and heavens; The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works therein shall be burned up, 2 Peter 3:10. All these things shall be dissolved, 2 Peter 3:11. And I saw a great white throne,.... This vision refers not to the Gospel dispensation, from the exaltation of Christ to his second coming; when he sat down on his throne at the right hand of God, and was declared Lord and Christ; when there was a shaking of the heavens and the earth, a removing of the Mosaic economy, and the ordinances of the ceremonial law in Judea, and of Paganism in the Gentile world; when the Gospel was preached to all nations, and the dead in sins were quickened, and arose and stood before the throne of grace; when the books of the Scriptures were opened and explained, and the book of life was also opened; and by the conversion of some, and not others, it was known who were written in it and who were not, and men were judged to be alive or dead in a spiritual sense, according to the influence the opening of these books had upon them; and the powers of the world, comparable to a sea, and of death and hell, were not able to hold in the dead in sin, when they were called to life, with respect to whom death and hell were destroyed; nor was the Gospel the savour of death to any but to such who were not written in the book of life. This, in other words, is the sum of Cocceius's sense of this vision; but this affair will be over, and all God's elect gathered in by the preaching of the Gospel, before this vision takes place: nor does it respect the restoration of the Jews, who now are as dead, like Ezekiel's dry bones, but will at this time be quickened, and stand upon their feet an exceeding great army, and will be gathered from the several parts where they are as dead; and when it will be known by their conduct and behaviour who are God's elect among them, and who are not; which is Brightman's interpretation of the vision: but this, as we have seen, will come to pass according to the vision in the preceding chapter, before the thousand years begin; whereas this vision will not begin to be accomplished until they are ended: it is best therefore to understand it of the general judgment at the last day, which is the common sense of ancient and modern interpreters; though it seems only to regard the judgment of the wicked, for no other are made mention of in it: the "throne" here seen is a throne of judgment; it is called a "great" one, because a great Person sat upon it, the Word of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, even he who is the great God, and Judge of the whole earth; and because of the great work that will be transacted upon it, the judgment of all the wicked; this will be the greatest assize that ever was held; it is called the judgment of the great day, and the great and dreadful day of the Lord, Jde 1:6, Malachi 4:5 this throne is also said to be a "white" one; just as the same Person is said to sit upon a white cloud, and ride upon a white horse, Revelation 14:14 it may be in allusion either to a white and serene cloud, or to a throne of ivory, such an one as Solomon made, 2 Chronicles 9:17 and this is either expressive of the majesty and splendour of it, it being a throne of glory, or a glorious throne, Matthew 25:31 or else it may denote the purity and justice of him that sits on it, according to which he will proceed in judgment, and finish it; his character is the righteous judge, and the judgment he will execute will be righteous judgment:

and him that sat on it; the throne was not empty, one sat upon it, who is no other than the Son of God; to whom all judgment is committed, and who is ordained to be Judge of quick and dead; and is every way fit for it, being of great knowledge, wisdom, and sagacity, and of great integrity and faithfulness, as man and Mediator, and being, as God, both omniscient and omnipotent, and so capable both of passing a right sentence, and of executing it; to which may be added, his great majesty and glory, necessary to strike an awe, and command an attention to him:

from whose face the earth and the heavens fled away, and there was found no place for them; which is to be understood not figuratively, as in Revelation 6:14 where in the one place is described the destruction of Paganism, and in the other the destruction of the Papacy, and all antichristian powers; but literally, and not of the present earth and heaven, as they now are, for these will be burnt up with fire at the beginning of the thousand years, but of the new heaven and new earth, at the end of them; and the phrases of fleeing away, and place being found no more for them, show the entire annihilation and utter abolition of them; after this there will be no place in being but the heaven of angels and saints, and the lake of fire, in which are the devils and damned spirits: but though this is mentioned here, it will not be till after the judgment is over; for how otherwise will the dead have a place to stand in before the throne, or hell, that is the grave, and also the sea, give up their dead, Revelation 20:12 but it is observed here, though afterwards done, to set off the majesty of the Judge upon the throne, at whose sight, and by whose power, this will be effected.

{19} And I saw a great {20} white throne, and him that sat on it, {21} from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

(19) The second part of this chapter, in which the judge is described in this verse, and the last judgment in the verse following.

(20) That is, a tribunal seat most princelike and glorious: for so does the Greek word signify.

(21) That is, Christ, before whom when he comes to judgment, heaven and earth shall perish for the greatness of his majesty; 2Pe 3:7,10.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 20:11-15. The judgment of the world. All the dead appear before the enthroned God as Judge. They who are not written in the book of life are cast—together with Death and Hades—into the lake of fire.

Καὶ εἰδον. Designation of a new vision.[4226]

ΘΡΌΝΟΝ ΜΈΓΑΝ ΛΕΥΚῸΝ. The greatness, as well as the whiteness, corresponding to the glory and holiness of the Judge sitting thereon, distinguishes this throne from that beheld previously (Revelation 20:4).

τὸν καθήμενον ἐπʼ αὐτοῦ. The one meant is not the Messiah,[4227] but God speaking (Revelation 21:5-6),[4228] and designated at Revelation 4:3.[4229] Ew. ii. understands God and Christ.[4230]

ῈΦΥΓΕΝ, cf. Revelation 16:20. Beng. explains the visible representation excellently: “Not from one place to another, but so that it has no longer a place.” Cf. Revelation 21:1. ἈΠῊΛΘΑΝ, 2 Peter 3:10.

A new part of the vision proceeding still further (ΚΑῚ ΕἸΔΟΝ, Revelation 20:12), attests the view thereof, as all the dead[4231] stand before the throne, and receive their sentence.

The ἑστῶτας ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου (Revelation 20:12), in the connection of the whole, has a precisely similar relation to the description Revelation 20:13 (κ. ἔδωκεν, κ.τ.λ.), as in ch. 15 Revelation 20:1 has to Revelation 20:6, since it is not reported more definitely (Revelation 20:13) whence the dead who stand before the judgment-seat have come.[4232] Bengel improperly regards the νεκρούς (Revelation 20:12) as those who live to see the day of the parousia,[4233] by understanding the νεκερούς figuratively,[4234] and distinguishing this from the resurrection of those actually dead (Revelation 20:13).

καὶ βιβλία ἠνοίχθησαν. Cf. Daniel 7:10. In these books the ἔργα are to be regarded as written, in accordance with which men are judged.[4235]

καὶ ἄλλο βιβλίον. This book, “the book of life,” is only one; it contains the names of all those who[4236] will be partakers of the eternal blessed life in the new Jerusalem.[4237] According to the ethical fundamental view, which is supported especially by the promises, ch. 2, 3, both kinds of books are to be received in their inner relation to one another, that always according to the works which stand indicated in the βιβλίοις, the names of men are, or are not, found in the βιβλίον τῆς ζωῆς. [See Note XCII., p. 474.] As in Revelation 20:12 the entire number of the dead was designated by a natural specification referring to their personality, so in Revelation 20:13 this idea is presented by a specification of another sort; every place where there are any dead, gives them back. The more manifest this is as an exhaustive designation of all places of concealment of the dead, the more perverted appears the assertion of Hengstenberg and Ebrard,[4238] that the θάλασσα means not the actual sea, but only “the sea of nations;”[4239] but from the text (καὶ ὁ θάν. κ. ὁ ἅδης, κ.τ.λ., cf. Revelation 20:14), it does not, therefore, follow that John seriously advocated the view according to which those contained in the sea had not reached Hades.[4240] John does not indeed refer to a wandering of souls in a watery grave, but simply represents those lying dead in the sea as coming forth from the same. Thus, in Revelation 20:13, that is described which, according to the analogy of Revelation 20:5, may be termed the second resurrection. Since Revelation 20:5 is understood as applying to all believers, this is only the resurrection of those who are to be delivered (Revelation 20:15) to the second death, i.e., to eternal torture in the lake of fire. But from this it does not follow that Revelation 20:12, in its clearly designated entirety of all the (risen, Revelation 20:5; Revelation 20:13) dead, does not comprise those saints;[4241] but in the general judgment of the world, that is expressly affirmed of those saints which was already guaranteed to them by the first resurrection and their thousand-years’ reign,[4242] because their names were found written in the book of life.[4243] But that the statement (Revelation 20:15) expressly describes the fate only of the unbelieving, is natural for the reason that in this passage the entire judgment of condemnation is concluded, in connection with which, then, the description of the eternal glory of believers, to which the entire Apocalypse is directed,[4244] may be given the more fully for their consolation and encouragement.

ΚΑῚ Ὁ ΘΆΝΑΤΟς ΚΑῚ Ὁ ᾍΔΗς ἘΒΛΉΘΗΣΑΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ. Death and Hades, which (Revelation 20:13)[4245] are locally represented here,[4246] appear personified as demoniacal powers, whose eternal removal[4247] is a presupposition to the eternal life of the glorified[4248] [See Note XCIII., p. 474.] ΟὙΤΟς Ὁ ΘΆΝΑΤΟς Ὁ ΔΕΎΤΕΡΟς ἘΣΤΙΝ. “This death is the second” (death). Thus the correct reading is to be translated.[4249] The apposition Ἡ ΛΊΜΝΗ ΤΟῦ ΠΥΡΌς, construed according to sense, declares that the second death—which is followed by no resurrection—consists in the ΒΛΗΘῆΝΑΙ ΕἸς Τ. ΛΊΜΝ. Τ. ΠΥΡ. (Revelation 21:8). The first death is easily understood as the end of the earthly life.

[4226] Revelation 20:1; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 19:11; Revelation 17:18.

[4227] Matthew 26:31. Beng, Eichh., Ew. i., etc.

[4228] Cf. Revelation 1:8.

[4229] Cf. also Daniel 7:9. Züll., De Wette, Hengstenb.

[4230] “One of two in complete undividedness” (?).

[4231] Concerning the exhaustive specification τ. νεκρ. τοὺς μεγάλους καὶ τοὺς μικροὐς, cf. Revelation 11:18, Revelation 13:16.

[4232] Züll., De Wette.

[4233] Cf. also Hengstenb.The moral dignity and reticence with which this sublime vision of the last assize is drawn, show how the primitive Christian conscience could rise above its inheritance from Jewish eschatology. The latter spoke more definitely upon the beginning of the end than upon the end itself (cf. Harnack’s History of Dogma, i. 174).The great white Throne, the General Resurrection, the Judgement on all the Dead and on Death and Hell, Revelation 20:11-1511. a great white throne] Probably not absolutely the same as that of Revelation 4:2 &c.: the King is to sit now not as Lawgiver or Administrator but as Judge. Possibly it is called “great” as compared with the thrones of Revelation 20:4; “white,” of course, as symbolical of the holiness and purity of the judgement to be administered.

and him that sat on it] This has throughout, from Revelation 4:2 onwards, been universally the title of God the Father. Moreover, the description of the Great Assize here is substantially the same as that of Daniel 7:9-10 : and there the Ancient of Days, Who sits on the throne, is plainly distinguished from the Son of Man. Therefore we are no doubt to understand the presence of the Father here, in spite of St John 5:22; John 5:27. There is no contradiction, if we take a duly high view of the relation between the Father and the Son. St Paul’s doctrine, Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16 (allowing that Titus 2:13 is ambiguous), shews the accurate relation between the two sides of the truth: and Revelation 3:21, compared with our Lord’s own words in St Matthew 16:27 and parallels, shews the propriety of this image.

from whose face &c.] The passing away of earth and heaven is spoken of in Isaiah 51:6, St Matthew 24:35 and parallels; but the strong expression of their fleeing before God’s presence is peculiar to this place: Psalm 104:32, however, is something of a precedent. That the destruction will be by fire is not stated here, or anywhere but in 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12, and perhaps 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8. In St Peter l.c. we have this destruction of the world by fire compared with the destruction by the Flood, and this parallel seems to have been recognised in popular Jewish belief. Popular Christian belief continued the series, by interpolating between the two a purely mythical “flood of wind;” an idea also found, curiously enough, in the Mexican mythology, which completed the elemental series with a destruction by earthquakes. The lesson of all this seems to be, that the Deluge is a matter of universal tradition, and that the destructibility of the world is recognised by a universal instinct: but that the manner of its destruction is not so revealed, that it can safely be conceived by us in picturesque detail. The destruction of our globe, perhaps of the whole solar system, by fire is quite within the bounds of possibility, even according to the known laws of nature; but those laws more naturally suggest the world literally “waxing old like a garment, and them that dwell therein dying like a moth,” and the elements rather congealing with cold than “melting with fervent heat.” On the other hand, passages like Acts 10:42; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5 seem plainly to prove that the human race will not be extinct when that Day comes, but that there will be “the quick” as well as “the dead” ready to undergo the Judgement. But the judgement of the dead only is described here. St John had learnt, as St Paul had not, that the dead would be the larger class of the two: whether he learnt it from his own longer life, or from the length of time implied in this vision.

and there was found no place for them] The phrase is a reminiscence of Daniel 2:35; we had a similar one in Revelation 12:8.Revelation 20:11. Καὶ, and) Up to this time there has been a description of the events which are to be accomplished between the day of John’s vision and the last day. It is therefore proper to insert here a Synopsis of the times, which are comprised in the prophecy.

A CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF THE CONTENTS OF THE APOCALYPSE.

3940.

Commencement of

3943.

The first year of the era of Dionysius.

a.d.

30.

Jesus Christ suffers; dies; rises again: affords Apocalyptic strictures, John 21:22-23; Acts 1:7 : and ascends into heaven.

96.

The Apocalypse is given: the coming of the Lord is announced to the seven churches in Asia, and to their angels, Apoc. 1. 2. and 3.

97, 98.

The seven seals are opened, and under the fifth the Chronus [Revelation 6:11, period or season; not as Engl. “little season”] is proclaimed, ch. 4–6. Seven trumpets are given to the seven angels, ch. 7. 8.

Century 2, 3, 4, 5.

The trumpet of 1James , 2 d, 3d, 4th angel - Revelation 8

a. 510–589.

The first woe,

589–634.

The interval after the first woe.

634–840.

The second woe,

800–1836.

The Non-Chronus; many kings,

Revelation 10; Revelation 11

840–947.

The interval after the second woe,

Revelation 11:14.

864–1521.

The 1260 days of the woman, after she had brought forth the man-child,

Revelation 12:6.

947–1836.

The third woe,

Revelation 12:12.

1058–1836.

The time, times, and half a time: and within that period, the beast, and his 42 months, and his number 666,

Revelation 12:14; Revelation 13:5.

1209.

War with the saints, end of the Chronus,

Revelation 13:7.

1614.

The everlasting Gospel [published],

Revelation 14:6.

1810.

End of the 42 months of the beast; upon the completion of which, and the pouring out of the seven vials, he is not, and Babylon sits as a Queen,

Revelation 15. etc.

1832.

The beast out of the bottomless pit,

Revelation 17; Revelation 18

1836.

End of the Non-Chronus, and of the many kings: the fulfilling of the words of God, and of the mystery of God: repentance of those who are left in the great city. End of the short time (“space”), and of the 3½ times. The destruction of the beast, the imprisonment of Satan,

Revelation 19; Revelation 20

Afterwards:

The loosing of Satan for a little Chronus: commencement of the 1000 years’ reign of the saints: end of the little Chronus,

Revelation 20

End of the world: all things new,

Revelation 20-22

I declare throughout, by what condition I wish it to be thought that the years in this table are defined. Therefore I beg, that no one will suppose anything to be advanced by me which is opposed to true sobriety, but that all will favourably receive that which is suitably offered. In the meantime, according to the guidance of the Apocalypse, you may not inappropriately distinguish the centuries from the time of John in Patmos to our own age by the following characteristics:The birth of Jesus Christ.

Cent. 2.

The Destruction of Judaism,

3.

The Inroad of the Barbarians,

Revelation 8.

4.

The Arian age: the Arian bitterness,

Revelation 10.

5.

Overthrow of the Empire of Rome,

Revelation 12.

6.

The Jewish Synagogue tormented,

Revelation 9:1.

7.

The Saracen cavalry,

Revelation 13.

8.

The Iconoclastic age: many Kings,

Revelation 10:11.

9.

The age of Photius: the Ruler of the nations also born,

Revelation 12:5.

10.

The Disastrous age: the third woe,

Revelation 12.

11.

The age of Hildebrand: the rising of the beast out of the sea,

Revelation 13:1.

12.

The Waldensian age: Power given to the beast,

Revelation 5. Verse 11. - And I saw a great white throne. And I saw; introducing a new phase of the vision (el. ver. 1, etc.). A throne is seen as in Revelation 4.2; it is great, perhaps, by comparison with those mentioned in ver. 4; white, because this is the colour of purity and all heavenly virtues (cf. Revelation 1:14; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:4, etc.). And him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. The true reading, "before the throne," in the following verse makes it clear that God the Judge is here intended. Perhaps from Matthew 25:31 and John 5:22 we must infer that God the Son is meant. The destruction of the world is complete - "no place is found for them;" they are annihilated. Such an event is nearly always portrayed in the description of the last judgment in the Apocalypse and in the New Testament generally (cf. Revelation 16:20).
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