We have arrived at the end of the universe, at the end of all things, and the creation of the new Heaven. At the end of Chapter 19, Christ led heaven to a final, climactic battle with the armies of evil. The White Rider trampled all enemies, and banished both the Beast and the Anti-Christ to the lake of fire.
One might wonder what is there left to do? Evil is vanquished. Doesn’t that mean that good has won, and the story is now over?
About the only complaint I had about the Lord of the Rings movies regarded The Return of the King. The last, oh, half-hour or so was a series of endings. The battles had been fought, Sauron had been defeated, Mordor was no more. But there was scene after scene with someone saying goodbye, or someone heading off across the sea, or of someone claiming their power. All of which could’ve been edited down to a 5-minute montage.
An angel from heaven comes down to earth and captures Satan. He throws the serpent into the bottomless pit, then seals and locks the pit. The dragon must stay in that pit for a thousand years, giving him no power over the nations. However, at the end of the thousand years, he will be set free.
After the serpent is captured, John sees thrones set up. Those who sat on the thrones were given authority to judge the living and the dead. However, that is neither here nor there since it isn’t mentioned again.
John then saw the souls of those martyred in the name of Christ. These had continued to worship Christ in the face of mortal peril, they rejected the beast and did not receive the mark. These souls were resurrected and were able to rule with Christ for the thousand years that Satan was imprisoned. This is the First Resurrection.
After the thousand years, Satan was released from prison. He set out and gathered another army of nations to make war against the armies of God. This time, Satan took the assembled armies to the “beloved” city. That was a bad move: God rained down fire on the army, burning them all to a crisp. Satan was once again captured, but this time was thrown into the lake of fire to join the beast and the false prophet. The three will be tortured there forever.
Finally, with his enemies defeated and the earth and heaven destroyed, God took his throne. Death, Hades and the sea had to surrender the dead they held. Everyone who had ever died were raised and brought before the throne. Books were opened for each person, and that person was judged according to their works. Anyone worthy had their name recorded in The Book of Life. Once the judgement was done, those whose name wasn’t in the Book of Life were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death, the eternal death.
John saw a new, Utopian earth and heaven. God lived among man. There was no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. Nothing unclean would be allowed in, no one who’d do destestable things or would tell lies. There’s only the righteous and God.
Here’s where being a non-believer changes one’s perceptions. For a Christian, the new Heaven and Earth are their ultimate goal. They want to be in the new Holy City living with God/Christ forever. On the other hand, I can’t help but think this would be boring. I could live with not dying, of course. But I wouldn’t want to spend eternity with people who all act and think the same way, worshiping a god who just destroyed all of humanity along with the universe.
If there’s no suffering, who is going to write the great works of literature? If there’s no pain, who is going to create new musical masterpieces? How can there be joy, if there’s never any sorrow? Who can enjoy light if there isn’t dark to differentiate?
Nope, this vision of the afterlife is not palatable to me at all.
But I digress…
The book closes with John coming back to his present. Both the angel and Jesus say that Christ will be returning “soon.” The angel warns John not to seal up this prophecy, because the time is near for the Lord to return. “Let the one who does what is evil continue to do evil, and let the filthy person continue to be filthy, and the righteous person continue to do what is right, and the holy person continue to be holy.”
John wraps up the book – and the New Testament – by inviting Jesus to return. “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”
Up next: Time for goodbyes
New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Tuesday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.
- All good things must come to an end… NTiR (biffster.org)
- The anti-Christ and the Beast – Revelations 12-15 (NTiR) (biffster.org)
- Angels can be bad-asses! – Revelations 9-11 (NTiR) (biffster.org)