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21 And the rest were killed by the sword of the rider on the horse, the sword that came from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.
Day 26 – 6th Monday
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be let out for a little while.
4Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years.
7When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will come out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, in order to gather them for battle; they are as numerous as the sands of the sea. 9They marched up over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from heaven and consumed them. 10And the devil who had deceived them 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.
11Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. 13And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; 15and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Points of Interest
- “the key to the bottomless pit” – I’m thinking of the scene in The Princess Bride when our hero wakes to discover he’s in the Pit of Despair. He’s told, “Don’t even think about trying to escape.” This time, though, God’s imprisoning the lying, accusing force behind all evil. Why the temporary release later, I have no idea.
- “a thousand years” – This length of time is repeated six times. It’s the only mention in the Bible, and it seems that this mysterious period of the flourishing of Christ and the resurrected martyrs is meant to be a really long time. Yet, despite the brief and obscure mention, this millennium has been the subject of great debate. Postmillenialists believe Jesus will return to earth after these thousand years, which for early Americans led to optimism and social progress, but also religious imperialism. Premillenialists read this passage most literally and believe Christ returns to earth before a great thousand year reign. This view has generally produced a more pessimistic view of human culture. Amillenialism reads this all symbolically, to likely be a very long time between Jesus’ resurrection and eventual return, a time in which Christ and his followers live and reign, even if unseen to most of us. I have an opinion, but mainly I recommend that you don’t care. It’s a minor point that doesn’t impact the main point of the text – Christ will return and will destroy evil.
- “Gog and Magog” – A reference from the prophet Ezekiel, here recast as human entities in the service of evil.
- “thrown into the lake” – The destruction of evil may sound unkind or violent, but it is necessary. Yale theologian Miroslav Volf has written, “Absolute hospitality would … enthrone violence precisely under the guise of nonviolence because it would leave the violators unchanged and the consequences of violence unremedied.” Exclusion is a last resort, but is a mercy.
- “earth and heaven fled” – Earth and heaven stands for everything. One impulse when people see God is to be overwhelmed and want to hide. People feel exposed in light of the stunning and perfect otherness of God – this happened occasionally with Jesus. But here there is no hiding place. All will see and confront their Maker.
- “books were opened… another book… the book of life” – There are two sets of books in this metaphorical moment at the end of human history, it seems – one book of people’s deeds, and one where God registers life. People are judged by their works, but if they are written into the book of life, they are preserved and live eternally regardless.
- “Death and Hades” – This reminds me of the Monty Python scene where the body collector calls, “Bring out your dead.” Here they are called out of all imaginable places for judgment. The “people” singled out for suffering, though, aren’t people at all, but the great enemies of humans, personified. Death and Hell are destroyed forever. The God of Life also becomes the destroyer of death. So while the judgment is rightly sobering, I believe it is most fundamentally a place of mercy and protection, rather than punishment.
This week, as Easter approaches, and Revelation climaxes with its vision of a new heaven and a new earth, we’ll look to cultivate hope. What hope does it give you that God is fiercely determined to wipe out death and evil? What realities of life or history do you look forward to seeing destroyed?
A Direction for Prayer
Think of the humans or groups you have heard of that strike you as most violent or evil, today’s Gog and Magog, to your mind. Pray that God will have mercy on the people – writing them into the book of life – while healing them of the evil cancer that must die.http://www.reservoirchurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/26_40_days_2018.mp3
The Bible Guide
This blog post is part of a Lenten journey through the book of Revelation. Every year during the season of Lent, we take a focused look at a portion of Scripture as part of our communal spiritual practice. This year, we are exploring what it means to be Children of God in a Fractured World, with Revelation as our lens. On Sundays, we’re exploring this with our sermons; on weekdays, we’re doing so with our bible guide. The bible guide series starts here.
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