Jan Lambrecht, «Final Judgments and Ultimate Blessings: The Climactic Visions of Revelation 20,11-21,8», Vol. 81 (2000) 362-385
Rev 20,11-15 and 21,1-8 contain the last two vision reports. The first does not deal with a general resurrection followed by a general judgment with respectively reward and condemnation. Attention is negatively focused on the final judgments of Death and Hades, as well as of those whose names are not found written in the book of life. In the second vision John sees a new heaven and a new earth and, more specifically, the new Jerusalem, i.e., the church universal of the end-time. The voice from the throne and God himself climactically proclaim final blessings. The covenant formula announces God's dwelling among the peoples, the adoption formula even a divine filial relationship: these are the main content of the ultimate blessings. Hermeneutical reflection on annihilation or transformation, on theocentrism versus human responsibilty and on the expectation of Christ's imminent parousia conclude the study.
Isaiah. The description in Rev 20,11bc (the earth and the heaven fled from his presence and no place was found for them) announces what will become the main theme of 21,1-8 (see especially vv. 1ab.4d and 5b). The new creation motif in Rev 21 clearly refers to texts of the Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah, mainly to Isa 65,17-20. What is said in Rev 20,11bc functions as a preparation to this utilization of Isaiah.
3. Text in Context
Climax. The passage Rev 20,11-15 forms the third and last part of the final judgment. In 19,11-21 Christs victory over the beast and the false prophet is narrated; the two are thrown into the lake of fire (19,20). In 20,1-10 the victory over the dragon who is the Devil and Satan (20,2) is indicated after the millennial kingdom. It is the outcome of the final battle of Satan together with Gog and Magog; the devil is thrown into the lake of fire. In 20,11-15 the dead are judged according to their works; Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire, as well as anyone whose name is not found written in the book of life.
The climactic nature of this vision should not go unnoticed: the great white throne and God himself as judge (v. 11a); the cosmic dissolution (v. 11bc); the general resurrection (v. 13ab); the standing of the dead, great and small, before the throne (v. 12); the judgment itself (vv. 12bcd and 13c); the removal of Death and Hades (v. 14a); the outcome of the judgment (v. 15). G.K. Beales comment on 20,11a (cf. 4,2 and 5,7) is to the point: The scene [of chs. 45] is repeated here to signify the consummate judgment, to which all previous judgments pointed and which is the climax of them all12.
Annihilation? The expression lake of fire occurs six times in Revelation: see 19,20 (first scene: beast and false prophet); 20,10 (second scene: dragon); 20,14a (third scene: Death and Hades); 20,14b (third scene: this lake is the second death); 20,15b (third scene: unbelieving mortals); 21,8 (sinners). One could be tempted to interpret the throwing of Death and Hades into the lake of fire as pointing to their complete annihilation, all the more so since 21,4b says that death will be no more. Does then the same perhaps apply to the sinners who are thrown into the lake of fire? For that lake is called the second death and one might argue that by definition death means