Well, with today’s reading we come to the end of our daily journey through the Bible. It has been a challenge to me personally to both read, reflect, and try to write something cogent that people might want to read. I intend to continue writing in this blog, but not daily. I hope that if you’ve followed me this far that you’ll continue to read my more occasional posts, which will continue to be focused on the text of the Scriptures. Thanks to many of you who have encouraged me through responses, “likes”, comments, emails, and the like.
Today’s reading gives us a look into the very, very last things before eternity begins in earnest — the justice due to Satan and the wicked will be justly meted out. The Lord and His saints will win, and the new Jerusalem will come down from Heaven as a bride for her husband, Jesus, our Lord. It’s an advance look at the highlights of the greatest victory of all history. Have you ever watched a big football game for the first time from your DVR? As a preacher and finding myself really busy on Sundays (when most pro football games are being play) I’ve had to watch most of my Patriot football games on the DVR — after I’d already heard the score on the radio on the way home? And OK, it’s not quite as exciting, but it gives me a lot less heartburn. When the other team makes a really big play, no matter how bad the momentum is going against us, I can take comfort in knowing that the “good guys” did win in the end (eh, except in the Patriot’s case, in the Super Bowl, of course). God has given us a great gift, we get to see the score before we watch the game play out; and we win! And the reason? To give us hope to hang on, even when it looks like our team is losing, the momentum is going the other way, we have good reason to hope and hang on — we know who wins in the end.
Never enough Hallelujahs! — 19:1-6
God is here bringing all the trouble and trial and suffering to an end. The multitudes in Heaven, angels and saints, are shouting Hallelujah (“Praise YHWH”). It’s been a long hard slog for God, angels, and men against the powers of evil. God has been extremely gracious, generous, and patient toward deceived men, but the time has come for all the suffering evil has caused to come to an end. And especially when that blessed hour comes, there will never be enough Hallelujahs: 1) Salvation, glory and power belong to our God who avenged the blood of the saints, 2) the smoke of God’s enemies goes up forever, 3) what has happened to God’s enemies is right, and 4) our God reigns forever!
The Lamb becomes the Lion — 19:11-21
We’re used to thinking of Jesus as the humble, kindly, sacrificial Lamb of God — and He is; but a time is coming when the world will see a different Jesus, the Lion of Judah. Here is a picture of the avenging Christ, the just Lord punishing and purging the evil that has risen up and caused so much suffering, death, and sin. He is “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS”, and He rules them with a rod of iron, treading the wine press of the fierce wrath of God. I guess you could say, “No more Mr. Nice Guy!” God has always had both a loving and gracious nature and a just and fierce nature. He has shown His love and grace in Jesus, but those who refuse this grace will have only His justice and wrath. This truth is reflected in what Isaiah says (and later Jesus Himself — Matt. 23:37)
Isaiah 65:1-6 ““I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ To a nation which did not call on My name. “I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, A people who continually provoke Me to My face, Offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks; Who sit among graves and spend the night in secret places; Who eat swine’s flesh, And the broth of unclean meat is in their pots. “Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, For I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day. “Behold, it is written before Me, I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will even repay into their bosom,”
The first resurrection — 20:4-6
There have been a number of suggestions as to what the first resurrection might be. Some have suggested that it is part of a pretribulational premillennial plan of God — not a position I buy. Others that it is a metaphorical resurrection of their witness (of Jesus as Lord) in the success of the church (historians have noted that the church seemed to have grown in the “fertilizer” of the blood of the martyrs). What makes the most sense to me is the sense in which Jesus used a first and second resurrection remark in John 5 —
John 5:25-29 ““Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”
The first call of Jesus, “an hour is coming and NOW IS”, will bring the dead back to life (e.g., Romans 6:4-6 and Eph. 2:1ff), a first resurrection, the time of one’s baptism into Christ. The second call of Jesus, “an hour is coming”, will be the general resurrection of the good and evil for the time of judgment. It is especially in this sense that we can understand how the second death will have no power over those who have experienced the first resurrection. Have you partaken in this first resurrection?
1000 bound and then released to deceive the nations — 20:1-10
According to this passage Satan was to be bound for 1000 years. What was that intended to mean? Clearly it has to do with his ability to “deceive the nations” (v. 8). But what does that mean? That he wouldn’t tempt anyone for 1000 years? That there’d be no sin on the earth for 1000 years? I suspect that it has directly to do with persecution of the first couple of centuries of Christianity, which Satan had been behind. There would be a long indefinite period time (1000 years), when Christianity was not going to be persecuted the same way that it was in those first few centuries. However, at the end of that period of time, toward the end of time, Satan will again be loosed to “deceive the nations”, persecute the church (we’ve already talked about the dire circumstances Christians and the church will likely face toward “the end”) almost to the point of extinction (Luke 18:8 “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”). The point: Hang on!
The end of evil — 20:11-14
Why hang on? Because just when all the forces of evil have been concentrated and brought to bear against the Lord and His church, God will bring down the curtain and put a final and complete stop to all the evil and madness. Judgment of all the world from the beginning of time to the end will be carried on and executed. None will be exempted, everyone one of them judged according to their works. And death and Hades (even death itself shall die) and everyone whose name was not in the book of life will be thrown in the lake of fire, Hell. Let there be no mistake, sin (disobedience to God) isn’t a game, it’s not just a little fun, it’s nothing to play with or minimize; it will send you to Hell and you need to avoid it at all — ALL — costs.
Description of the bride — 21:1–22:7
And now that the evil has been summarily and forever dealt with, the wedding of eternity, the wedding that has been waiting since the fall at Eden, takes place! The bride of Christ, the church, the new Jerusalem, comes to her groom arrayed in a beautiful white dress, the righteous deeds of God’s people. She is the the bride, who Christ loved so much that He (Ephesians 5:25-27) “… gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” It is an epic love story, spanning the history of time and ending in tenderness and consummation (21:3,4).
The balance of the description of the bride as the new Jerusalem, the church, and Heaven — the metaphorical descriptions are getting somewhat mixed in this climax of glory — is rich and glorious. Indeed it is probably safe to say, “Better than advertised.” How so? Look at the golden streets, made of gold so pure that it is transparent like glass. No gold we know of in this world is transparent, which tells us that our God is trying to “describe red to a child blind from birth”, describe something so great that we have no words or things to compare it to. If Heaven is just the way it is described, it will be greater than great — but I just have a hunch that it will be so great that if I saw it with my own eyes, it would literally blow my tiny human mind. Heaven — be there at all — ALL — costs.
No deletions and no additions needed — 22:18-19
And yes, this passage actually is referencing the fact that no one should take anything from this specific book of prophecy, but if no one should take anything from this specific book of prophecy, it follows quite naturally that we should take nothing from any of God’s words — or make any additions. God revealed it as it should be revealed, as men need it revealed, no deletions and no additions needed or wanted.
Which leads me to a closing thought, as we finish this voyage through the Bible, we don’t need to stop here. Let me encourage you to flip the Bible back to Genesis and go through the whole Scripture again and again. You’ll find something new each time you read through. But just be careful to do it. We can delete or add to God’s word without actually drawing a line through text or writing new text into our Bibles by merely choosing to ignore parts of God’s word or going beyond what has been written. Keep reading, keep growing, and keep faithful.
As I mentioned earlier, I will continue to write more on this blog, just not everyday. I look forward to your company and your comments. So, I’ll alter my closing remark now to…
See you soon, Lord willing.