Monday, December 29, Revelation Chapter 20
Next I saw an angel coming down from heaven, who had the key to the Abyss and a great chain in his hand. CJB Get the picture. Satan is boiling in the lake of sulfurous fire and he sees an angel coming with a massive log chain. Remember that Satan was a cherubim/archangel, one of only six (by tradition). He ruled over thousands of lesser angels, the seraphim and the lowly teraphim. In my mind, I see the angel as being a teraphim who now has the power to chain the once mighty cherub. That power comes from the Messiah. If you argue that the angel is really Jesus, I have no problem, the result is the same.
Not only is Satan chained, he is locked in the abyss in total darkness for a thousand years while Abaddon continues to swim in the lake, but with power over death. Yes, we do not yet have an end to death, though Isaiah 65:20 reads: No more will babies die in infancy, no more will an old man die short of his days —he who dies at a hundred will be thought young, and at less than a hundred thought cursed. CJB
What does John mean when he talks about the thousand years? We generally call it the millennium, but the number of ideas about what it is may reach a thousand. We should know that there are three basic positions: 1) premillennial, 2) amillennial, 3) postmillennial.
The first group believes that the thousand year period, the millennium, comes after Jesus returns to earth and judgment is dispensed, but also that Jesus returns again and punishment is once again carried out.
The second position hold that the millennium is only a figure of speech to represent the completeness of God’s action at the time of the Messiah’s return to earth. Augustine was the first to speak of this argument by pointing out that ten is a perfect number and a thousand is ten cubed. One hundred (ten squared) represents completeness, so one thousand is all inclusive.
Position three holds that the return of the Messiah to earth will only occur after the millennium. The argument is that John, as I have pointed out, is describing events all over the time line. There is no reason to suppose in this chapter that the events described must occur after chapter 19.
My personal opinion is that it is in God’s hands and I cannot see any reason why any one of the three cannot be correct. What is important is the ultimate victory of God over Satan.
But whichever stance we take, chapter 20 presents some difficulties, though fewer for premillennialism.
Verses 5 and 6 need to be considered in light of our usual image of the end times. Most of us have the notion that when we die we will be taken directly into heaven to join Jesus in a perfect world. If you have read this far in Revelation, you should have dropped that notion by now. If we had been reading this book as a novel, we would have expected that chapter 19 was the end. Now we have two resurrections to consider as well as more than one return of Jesus.
The battle has been won but the war is not over. If God is all powerful, why did he not completely destroy Satan and Abaddon and return humans to the perfection of Eden?
The answer lies partially in Eden. There were two trees in the Garden humans were to avoid, one was named the other was lurking in the background, perhaps guarded. Humans have eaten of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Unlike God, we are unable to resist evil. We have it in our limited minds that if Satan is destroyed, we would no longer be able to sin; that the only reason we sinned was because of Satan so if he is gone we will not sin.
Sorry, we possess the knowledge, we cannot return it. For as long as we live in whatever form, we will know sin. How then can God bring an end to sin even as we retain that knowledge? God has a plan to do just that. John was given a partial vision of that plan but he could not have understood it even if God had let him see the full version.
Who is lifted up in the first resurrection? If we remember that it occurred on the Firstfruits, it makes sense that only a select few would have been taken from the grave. We know of the martyrs, the groomsmen and the bride, but there were also witnesses, believers who were not worthy to be part of the bride. Two questions: were all these people already dead and buried and if some are taken into heaven rapture style (in a twinkling) does it matter that they never died. Remember that the two prophets Elijah and Enoch had to die after their 42 months of fighting evil. Do we have to die before we can experience the fullness of the new life?
So who is going to be living on earth for a thousand years? Jesus, his bride, his groomsmen, his witnesses and all the people still living on earth who were not marked as belonging to Satan. There is little information about this period so we will have to trust God in it.
When the thousand years are over, the Adversary will be set free from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for the battle. Their number is countless as the sand on the seashore; and they came up over the breadth of the Land and surrounded the camp of God’s people and the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and consumed them. The Adversary who had deceived them was hurled 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. CJB
This short war with the ancient enemies, Gog and Magog, is described in more detail in Ezekiel 38-39. Ezekiel goes on in 40-48 describing much the same images as Revelation 21-22.
At the end of the millennium Satan is turned loose only to finally be thrown into the lake of fire.
At the end of the millennium every human will receive the final judgment as the Book of Life is opened and God reads the punishment each of us must endure. Those who remain loyal to Jesus will receive a pass based on his own sacrifice. Those who have rejected God and His Son will join Satan and his masses in the lake.
Tuesday, December 30, Revelation Chapter 21
Have you noticed that the first two books of the Bible describe the perfect world with its perfect humans and now the last two books describe the new perfect world. Not just a new world but new heavens as well; a whole new universe.
We will be able to see the torment of those who chose wrongly but we will be unable to help them. It should keep us from ever choosing to oppose God again.
The new Holy City includes the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles. It includes access to God and His Son.
It does not fit our common image of living in Heaven. We will be living on New Earth and Jerusalem will be beyond belief; 1,500 miles in all directions, a perfect cube made entirely of precious metals and stones.
The sea will be no more may refer to the sea as it is often associated with man’s sin. What would paradise be without a few beaches?
The listing of twelve precious stones recalls the breast-plate of the high priest, each stone representing one of the twelve tribes.
While the New Jerusalem will follow closely what we know of the old city, every nation will be represented on the new earth, but unlike the old Temple, there will be no barrier to prevent any of us from approaching God.
Wednesday, December 31, Revelation Chapter 22
We will want for nothing. We will drink pure cool water and eat perfect food from the tree of life. We will be able to walk or run as far as we want without tiring. Pain will no longer exist, nor will a long list of parasites like mosquitoes.
The end of verse 11 is for us here and now: let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy. NIV Jesus called John out of Patmos to experience something of the future for humanity. From this and the rest of Scripture we should be able to make the right choice. We do not want to be like the rich man who ignored Lazarus at his gate (Luke 16:19-31).
“Come!” say the Spirit and the Bride.
Whoever hears, echo, “Come!”
Is anyone thirsty? Come!
All who will, come and drink,
Drink freely of the Water of Life! MSG
Be righteous and do good.