Outside The Gates
Rev 22:14-15

By David Embury

An appeal is sometimes made to Rev 22:14-15 and then the question asked: "what then happens to the wicked at death?"

This may depend on how "the wicked" are defined – see how Jesus and Paul defined such Mt 5:21-22, 27-28; 1Cor 6:9-11a; Gal 5:19-20. It can safely be said that we all fit in these categories somewhere at some time, and just to cover all possible bases of kingdom excluding behaviour Paul in Gal 5:21 qualifies further by saying "…and the like…" – in other words, any form of unrighteousness disqualifies. What is mentioned in these verses was the fruit of those who perpetually lived under the law. Paul in Galatians 5 contrasts Law against Grace, Flesh against Spirit, Old Covenant versus New Covenant – it was life under the old versus life in the new. And so it was that these works "of the flesh" being lived according to the self-righteousness of law observance were railing against that of life "in the Spirit", as listed in Gal 5:18-21.

If correct behaviour in life becomes the determining factor concerning "eternal security" in death then what was the point of Christ's death and resurrection? The truth is, entering the Kingdom was never about "going to Heaven when we die" – but about entering in on the call of God for service today, in this life. IF good behaviour cannot be the qualifier that gains one's entrance into Heaven beyond death; then neither can bad behaviour be the disqualifier that bars and excludes one from Heaven beyond death either. God's grace through Christ's obedience removed man's unrighteousness and pathed the way for all humanity to be at peace with Him in and beyond this life. The price paid for unrighteous behaviour, however, is invariably found in this life – what happens beyond this life as far as "works" are concerned, apart from "rewards" the Scriptures are relatively silent on.

Now do we just as some might say "live like the devil"? – certainly not! Are we so shallow that the only reason we don't deliberately go out and do wrong is to keep our salvation? Or is it a case of we "do right" in honour of God and His great mercy. Paul wrote to Timothy of God's all-encompassing deliverance that ministers through "especially of those who believe" [1Tim 4:10] because believers know that which is the good to do, and so live fully in it.

Rev 21:8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Rev 22:14-15 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

So who were these insolent ones outside, those experiencing the lake of fire? In a word and in biblical the context – those under and beholden to the Old Covenant mode of existence; these were the ones who would experience the terrors of Second Death.

Jesus, John and Paul made it clear as to who these idolatrously abominable, sexually immoral, murderous dogs, practising liars, sorcerous and cowardly unbelieving ones were. They were none other than those who clung or returned to their old covenant mode of existence, those who would die in their sins [Jn 8:24] not knowing in life the forgiveness that was theirs, thus they were "twice dead" [Jude 1:12]:

1] Dogs and sorcerers [Phil 3:2]. Evil workers and mutilators – those who promulgated law observance for righteousness.

2] Sexually immoral, murders, idolaters and liars [Mt 5:21-22, 28, 32; Col 3:5; 1Cor 10:14; 1Jn 2:22; 3:15]. According to Jesus, John and Paul none of these were restricted in their literalness.

3] Whoever loves OR practices a lie [Col 3:9; 1Tim 4:1-3]. Again, this was life under the old covenant, out of which some of Paul's audience was coming.

All these categories mentioned above were relative to life under the old covenant, indicative of "the works of the flesh" – life lived according to the law, yet never free from its condemnation, but worse, its self attendant self-righteousness in keeping Torah which these Judaizers were trusting in – having their show of righteousness yet rotten to the core [Rom 2:1]. All of which life according to the Spirit in the new covenant, railed – as is listed in Gal 5:18-21.

Summing up these Paul goes on to say:

1Cor 10:6-11 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 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.

Yes, these described above were the Judaizers, those beholden to the old covenant for righteousness and so remaining outside the realm of God's full new covenant blessings in life.

As can be seen from Scripture, these things were indicative of life under the old covenant, out of which Paul's audience [relevance] had come or had intimate knowledge of [Act 2:5, 9-11; 15:21]. Likewise, John's exhortation in Rev 21:8; 22:14-15 needs to be understood as applicable to those of the transitional "end-of-the-ages" covenantal context and setting. To give the 'lake of fire' perpetuity past its AD70 fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem would no doubt find all qualified in some number of the above categories – and knowing that according to Scripture to break one is to break them all would thus leave ALL "outside".

Those ones "outside" were outside of the covenantal service of God as it was in the "this generation" era AD30-70, and thus came under the covenantal and corporeal judgment of Israel's 'lake of fire' – the old covenants world's "second" and final death; not finding deliverance [salvation] into the age about to come, but perishing instead in there unbelief [Jn 3:16-18, 36] – the very thing Jesus prophesied would happen IF Israel would not "repent" and believe her Messiah [Lk 13:3-5]. These were they who remained – "outside the gates".