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.
were thrown into the lake of fire. b This is the second death, the lake of fire; 15a and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life b was thrown into the lake of fire.
1. The Narrative
The report of Johns vision in 20,11-15 is not straightforward. A reconstruction of the logical sequence of what happened would only select the following facts: John sees the great white throne and the one who sat on it (v. 11a); earth and heaven flee from Gods presence (v. 11b); then John sees the dead standing before the throne (v. 12a); books are opened (v. 12b); also the book of life is opened (v. 12c); all are judged according to their works, as written in the books mentioned first (v. 12d); anyone whose name is not in the book of life (v. 15a) is thrown into the lake of fire (v. 15b).
One immediately sees that v. 12c, which adds another book and its opening, interrupts as it were the opening of the books (v. 12b) and the judgment proper (v. 12d). Yet the book of life had to be mentioned because of what is stated in v. 15a: the absence of ones name in that book indicates the criterion for the punishment3. Furthermore, in vv. 11-12 two details are rather illustrative: see v. 11c (no place is found for earth and heaven) and v. 12a (great and small).
The inserted verses 13-14 provide the readers with postponed explicative information and new data, but also repetition. In vv. 13a and 13b John explains how the dead can be present before Gods throne: the sea, Death and Hades have given up their dead; then v. 13c repeats the judgment4. In v. 14a John describes personified Death and Hades being thrown into the lake of fire; v. 14b adds the explanation that this lake of fire is the second death. The insertion of v. 14a makes the punishment of the sinners in v. 15 become a replica of that of Death and Hades; consequently; verse 15 is no longer the climax of the narrative5.