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.
non-existence13. Most probably, however, this is not what John is thinking.
In 19,20 we read: These two [beast and false prophet] were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur and in 20,10 the portrayal becomes even more explicit: And the devil ... was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. There seems to be no reason to believe that according to John the lake of fire for unbelievers means annihilation rather than the permanent torment experienced by the devil. Moreover, it is not to be excluded that personified Death and Hades suffer that identical judgment, since they may be taken as evil spirits, agents of the devil. What is indicated in 20,15 about unbelievers is expanded in 21,8 by means of a list of sinners. John concludes: their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. No mention is made of the end of the burning fire and no mention of the annihilation of those who are in the lake. A passage such as 14,9-11 no doubt reveals Johns conviction regarding the eternal punishment of those who worship the beast and its image (v. 9): the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those people (v. 11).
General Judgment? A first impression could be that the vision in 20,11-15 deals with the general judgment. The dead are present, great and small. Since all (e#kastoj: each person) are judged according to their deeds, one thinks of the books in which the good and evil works of all mortals are recorded. Before the judgment a resurrection has taken place: sea, Death and Hades have given up their dead14. One almost spontaneously thinks of a neutral