This third resurrection will comprise those who are unwilling to live by God's laws and refuse to repent. These incorrigible people will be cast into the Lake of Fire and completely burned up. They can never be resurrected again, having rejected God's wonderful offer of salvation and eternal life.
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment
John equates the second death with the Lake of Fire, the final judgment of the incorrigibly wicked, those whose names are not found in the Book of Life. While these events occur after the Millennium, the Lake of Fire is also shown to exist before the Millennium (Revelation 19:20). Whether this means the Lake of Fire exists throughout the Millennium—perhaps as a vivid reminder of God's judgment—or it is manifested only at the endpoints is not clear.
The Book of Life, mentioned twice in this passage, is first used in Exodus 32:32-33 where Moses beseeches God to forgive Israel after the Golden Calf incident: “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” The Lord responded, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.”
In Psalm 69:28, David pleads for God's help regarding his enemies: “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.” He may have been referring to this same book when he wrote, “And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:16).
In a scene reminiscent of Revelation 20:12-14, Daniel describes the future judgment of the Beast with books being opened, and the Beast being thrown into flames (Daniel 7:10-11). In another prophecy of the same general time, Daniel 12:1-2 records:
At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Emphasis ours throughout.)
In Philippians 4:3, Paul urges the Philippian congregation to “help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.”
In the letter to the church at Sardis, Jesus promises that those who overcome will not have their names blotted out from the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5). Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 show that those who are not written in the Book of Life will be deceived and influenced by the end-time Beast. Being written in the Book of Life grants entrance into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:27), while “tak[ing] away from the words of the book of this prophecy” will result in God “tak[ing] awayhis part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and fromthe things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:19) Clearly, having our names in this Book makes all the difference, both in the time of the end and in our final judgment!
David C. Grabbe
What Is the Second Death?
Are the names of the Destroyer and his constantly sinning demon companions written in the God's Book of Life? Of course not. Revelation 20:10 affirms this: “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are [were cast]. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The Scriptures reveal that it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18). Yes, Satan and his demons are to be burned up in the Lake of Fire prepared for them, as Jesus states in Matthew 25:41. According to God's law, death is what they have earned for their sins.
We should understand that, biblically, forever does not always means “everlasting.” It sometimes indicates “as long as conditions exist.” For instance, the Old Covenant sacrifices were instituted forever. The book of Hebrews, however, shows that they are clearly no longer required for the sons of God. “Forever” lasted only until Christ died for our sins. Ezekiel 44 suggests that they will be revived in the future for a brief time, but when the Lake of Fire occurs, they will no longer be needed for a relationship with God (II Peter 3:10).
II Peter 3:13 makes an encouraging statement immediately following Peter's statements about the Lake of Fire: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” A dwelling is where a person or family lives. In the New Heaven and New Earth, only righteousness dwells in them.
Does this mean “except for the unrepentant demons who continue living on despite the Lake of Fire because God cannot exterminate their existence because He mistakenly created them of imperishable spirit”? No! They are not there because they were burned up in the everlasting fire. Not one iota of sin—not even the remembrance of sin!—will exist in those living where only righteousness dwells. The unrepentant demons will be completely purged from the New Heaven and New Earth, and only holiness will remain. By the way, “new” in II Peter 3:13 and in Revelation 21:1 is kainos, the same word Paul uses in II Corinthians 5:17, meaning “something that did not exist before.” Since there will be no unrighteousness in any form in the world to come, Satan and his fellow demon spirits must be totally annihilated.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Do Angels Live Forever?
The Last Great Day foreshadows the Great White Throne Judgment period. The prevalent conditions of the Millennium - God's government, peace, prosperity, etc. - will continue into this time, just as the Last Great Day follows the Feast of Tabernacles. From Isaiah 65:20, some speculate that this judgment will last a hundred years, the life span of a healthy individual.
Martin G. Collins
Holy Days: Last Great Day
The incorrigibly wicked are the last of mankind to be resurrected from their graves - from "the sea" (where they may have perished), from death (without burial), or from hades (a grave in the ground). God Himself will sentence these unruly, miserable human beings - hopefully few - and whoever is not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Third Resurrection
God—by His calling, granting us repentance, giving us His Spirit, helping us understand the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and the revelation of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice—has brought us to a place that is spiritually identical to that of the Israelites after the Old Covenant was confirmed. Thus, this passage cries out to us with great forcefulness.
The world, and even some who claim membership in the church of God, tell us that salvation is secure once we have been justified by God's grace. They say that salvation from that point on is unconditional. If salvation is unconditional from justification on, why does God admonish us to choose between life and death? Why does He command us to choose to keep His law so that we may live and inherit the land? Why does God threaten us, His children, with the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15)? Are His threats hollow? Are they lies because there really is no Lake of Fire?
If salvation is unconditional after we receive God's Holy Spirit, then the death of an entire generation (except for Joshua and Caleb), lost because of faithlessness, is nothing but a misleading waste. God, then, expended over a million lives for no good reason. But I Corinthians 10:11 says, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."
John W. Ritenbaugh
After Pentecost, Then What?
The resurrection of the righteous takes place at Christ's return (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), but that of the uncalled - the second resurrection - will occur in the Great White Throne Judgment after the Millennium. God is merciful, loving, and kind, not willing that any should perish. He desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth and to true repentance at the proper time. He has determined that most will receive this opportunity when He has set up His Kingdom on the earth, an environment most conducive to salvation.
These people will be raised up to physical existence. The "books" that are opened at this time are the books of the Bible in which are revealed true knowledge and understanding. The "Book of Life" will also be opened so their names can be written in it when they repent of their sins, accept Christ as personal Savior, and receive the Holy Spirit. During this time, they will be judged according to their works. Thus, we see most of humanity standing before God to be judged. God in His wisdom has determined that this is the best way to bring the most sons to glory and eternal life in His Kingdom.
Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Second Resurrection
The first part of verse 5 inserts a parenthetical statement that refers to a second resurrection, described in verses 11-15. After the Millennium, God will raise up to physical life all those who have never had an opportunity for salvation. Christ will judge all those who lived throughout human history yet have not been called. Ezekiel 37:1-14 prophesies of God resurrecting all Israel. At the same time (see Matthew 12:41-42), He will raise all the Gentiles and extend to them the same offer He does to Israel (Romans 2:7-11; I Timothy 2:4). If they satisfy God's judgment, He will at some point grant them eternal life and give them spiritual bodies (I Corinthians 15:44-49).
After all have had their opportunity, God will perform still a third resurrection. Those who will not repent of their rebellion against the Almighty will be raised to physical life and cast into the Lake of Fire, which provides a merciful, permanent death (see Matthew 25:41).
Martin G. Collins
Holy Days: Last Great Day
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Revelation 20:15:
1 Corinthians 10:11
1 Peter 3:18-20