The two spies had no idea how important their mission was. They thought the job was just to gather military intel; but no, God was doing much more than they could have imagined. He was creating another masterpiece of grace. And that’s the way it always is. He is always doing far more than we think, even though our little lives and actions may seem to us, to be of no significance. What a God we serve!
With this verse, the scene and our future head into a totally new adventure. It seems like the physical and the spiritual for us are fused together as never before. This universe John sees is either a brand new one or one that has been so divinely refurbished, that it fully deserves to be called new. It is very different from the planet we know today. For one thing, there is no sea, no oceans. This does not mean there will be no water, for it will be significantly present, but not in the same way.
The apostle then mentions another item never before seen by human eye: a city, called the new Jerusalem, floating down from space! It approaches the new earth ceremoniously, as a beautiful bride walks towards her future husband.
As it descends, the apostle hears a powerful voice, booming from heaven with an announcement: God’s dwelling place will be among His redeemed. He will no longer be invisible and untouchable. He will live among His children personally and permanently. The family of God will forever be together, with Him.
He will wipe away all tears. This may be because at that moment there are tears to wipe away, or, it may simply be a way of saying there will never again be any. Either way, death has been banished forever, so all sorrow, all crying, and all pain disappear for good. These ugly companions, so intricately a part of our human pilgrimage that it is difficult to conceive of life without them, are gone.
Indeed, the best is still to come!
The rock imagery is a favorite one for several Biblical heroes, with beautiful teaching about the faithfulness of God, His power and stability, the protection afforded by His presence, His being the source of living water, and even the divinity of Christ. When is the last time we looked up in praise to the Rock of our salvation? Maybe it’s been too long!
A list of the largest gatherings in history contains a number of events with between seven and eight million people. So this Revelation 20 crowd would not only dwarf those, but even a combined reunion of all the current inhabitants of earth. It will be the first and last meeting of all unbelievers who have ever lived, and will unquestionably be billions of people. On a human level, the logistics would be staggering in terms of sound systems, exits, facilities, and so forth. However, none of that is an issue at this event. It is Almighty God who has called the assembly, and making it work will be no challenge. Interestingly, John noted that nobody is seated, and therefore there are no chairs or need for them.
As they stand, multiple books are opened. No comment is made as to how many books there are, so it might be that there is one per person. Whatever the case, our imagination has to be stretched with almost every successive verse!
How long will this take? Again, there is no word on that, but it doesn’t really make any difference. Time, at this point, is irrelevant. Who is in a rush? What for? This is the ultimate global court of history and it will go on as long as needed, as long as it takes to get the job done.
Nobody outside of God’s redeemed escapes this judgment. Death and hell, as if they were personal entities, expel everyone who descended into their custody. Every person will individually face the facts of his life according to the heavenly books. Attitudes and behaviors will be measured against the moral law written on each heart by the God who made it in His image.
At this point, the lake of fire, which previously received the Satanic trio, then gets the two mysterious subjects, death and hell. This pair, again as if they had personality, are swallowed up in the lake of fire. After them, the entire multitude that had been standing before the throne, is cast in.
This is the second death, the final one.
After this we head into chapter 21, which starts with a totally fresh atmosphere, and the dawning of a brand new era
Fire coming down from heaven and consuming people is a pretty clear sign of divine disapproval. It happened several times in the Old Testament: to Aaron’s sons, to the soldiers coming after Elijah, and to Sodom and Gomorrah. However, those were relatively small incidents compared to the massive flame that pours down from heaven at this moment — so many men, in just a few seconds, and with not so much as a word being spoken. They are devoured by fire.
Then the devil, seemingly without even a scuffle, is hurled into a very nasty lake. This lake is like no other and is described as having two components: fire and brimstone. Of what exact composition these two are is another mystery, but that they are capable of making a powerful spirit like Lucifer suffer extremely, is beyond question. The place is horrific by anybody’s standards.
At least two others are already in that lake: the beast and the false prophet. There is no word of any kind of reunion, nor should there be. They all become mere occupants of this terrible and inescapable prison, and will suffer for their crimes against the Eternal One as long as He is. The enemy of our souls, and all who hitched up with him, are gone forever. This is good news.
At this point John sees a throne like no other that has ever been seen before. It is gigantic, dwarfing the rest of creation. It is white, displaying the universal color for purity and justice. It is imposing; so much so, that earth and heaven, almost as if they had personality, race away from it. They are tainted and useless, so they disappear from the scene.
These are fantastic moments, setting the stage for the best that is still to come
There is no clear reason given for the length of one thousand years, but that is plenty of time to fill the earth with people. And it will be a very different place. The animal world will be at peace, with previous predators and prey playing together like friends. People will once again live for hundreds of years. It will be similar to the Eden experience, but with at least one glaring distinction: man’s heart.
It will still be fallen and naturally unholy. There may not be any prohibited trees around to tempt them, but there will be plenty of moral rules to abide by, all under Christ’s perfect eye of justice. For ten centuries the world will be policed by a benevolent Master, who rewards all evil and good with exactly what they deserve.
And yet, in spite of this ideal situation, many will be itching for freedom to do as they please. They will chafe, even under the kind hand of the King, and wish they could be completely autonomous and answer to nobody. All that is needed for man to organize a rebellion and show his cards will be for them to have a specially powerful and sinister leader.
Yes, the Serpent will be released, to once again do his nasty will. He has plenty of energy and takes off on a global campaign to mount an almost universal revolution against the Lord. He knows his doom, but is bent on destroying as many humans as possible in his last strike. They are referred to as Gog and Magog, which seems to be another Biblical example of taking ancient places and people, and attributing to them representative, prophetic significance. Maybe they see themselves as the rightful heirs and victorious descendants of Cain and his clan. At any rate, they join to form a number as large as the sands of the earth’s shores. Their strategy is to attack and destroy the King’s beloved city and its surroundings, from where He rules the world in perfect love. Nothing but fair laws and excellent government has ever come from that capital city. But they are inflamed with pride and blind to all good reason. It is an ugly story.
But the that’s not the end. Better things are ahead!
7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city:
Because the Holy Scriptures are of divine origin, we should not be surprised to discover marvelous harmony underneath the surface and between items that seemingly have nothing to do with each other. What an amazing Book! What an amazing God!
Two Royal Birthdays
VERY DIFFERENT DEATHS
Why do some godly people die young and in pain while others live to a ripe old age and pass on peacefully? Maybe you have had family members or friends in either category, or both. It is wonderful to see that our God does not sidestep the issue nor is it unimportant to Him.
Have you ever wondered if God, or anyone else, knew or cared about the difficult circumstances you were in? Have you been faithful to the Lord in some tiny, little, obscure corner and asked yourself if it was worth it? Then this Biblical story is for you and can bring tremendous encouragement in the truth of God’s character. (TTTS#33)