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.
What remains to be done is to summarize the main data of this climactic outcome and to present some hermeneutical reflections.
1. The Final Outcome
(1) Rev 20,11-15 contains the last scene of Gods victory over his enemies. John sees the great white judgment seat and the one who is seated on it; the dead, great and small, are standing before the throne; the books are opened. Earth and heaven have fled from Gods presence. Sea, Death and Hades have given up their dead. Then Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire; the same happened with those whose name is not written in the book of life.
In vv. 11-13 one spontaneously imagines a general resurrection or, if one takes into account the first resurrection mentioned in 20,5-6, at least the resurrection of the rest of the dead so that all the dead can be judged. One expects, therefore, the separation of the saints from the sinners; one looks for both reward and punishment. But the judgment in vv. 14-15 is one-sidedly negative; the focus is on the inhabitants of the earth, whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world (17,8). For all of them it is the ultimate catastrophe, the second death. This is, of course, not just information for the Christians; a hidden warning is also present. Yet the reader is tempted to ask: what happens to those whose names are written in that book? After all, that momentous throne pericope of 20,11-15 remains somewhat strange.
This reminds us of the compositional irregularities which are discussed above. After John has depicted the lot of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet, he does not want to omit the same destiny for Death and Hades. What in vv. 13-14 is said about sea, Death and Hades appears to be an insertion.
(2) The start of 21,1-8 is brusque. There is a kind of suspense at the end of 20,11-15. The final judgments took place, but what happened to