Friday, September 26, 2014

An Epitaph for Death [part two] ...

In the previous portion of this study, our story in Revelations chapter 20 began AFTER the second coming to reunite us with our Lord and our God had already taken place.  The final end of evil remains the part of the story still to be told.  The Bible is more than just the story of the redemption of humanity.  It also serves to tell the story of the rise and eradication of evil itself.  That final ending part of the story of evil had only just begun.  Satan was bound alone with his demonic following here in the destroyed earth for 1000 years.  During this time we, the redeemed, review the judgments of our God upon those who have steadfastly refused every opportunity to accept the gift of His perfect freedom to love others.  The wicked lost have been asleep in their graves during this millennia but now, the time for evil is nearly done.  The time to see evil end is about to be revealed.
John continues in verse 7 … “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, [verse 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.”  As mentioned earlier the minute the wicked are raised, Satan looks with singular purpose to do one thing, build an army that can defeat the angels he lost to before.  Satan raises the old argument citing history from the tower of Babel, that if mankind unites behind a single purpose, we can defeat God.  Satan does not discourage evil in his ranks, he promotes it.  But in this instance he is not looking to lose troop numbers, so there is to be no early killing of each other in the ranks of his army.  We are to save our blood lust for the meek and mild residents of the city of heaven.  Notice too, there is no rebellion in his ranks.  No one stands up and rejects his ideas of conquest and murder.  No one refuses what he offers.
Think about it.  Scripture foretells all of this.  You are reading the future history of evil and righteousness right now in great detail.  Yet despite a sure knowledge of the outcome, if you find yourself awakened to be on the side of evil, you will join this insanity willingly.  What choice do you have?  What other fate is there?  Perhaps some join with the full knowledge of their impending doom.  Perhaps some continue to perpetrate evil acts of immorality and self-pleasure as much as they can while they await the coming battle.  How else to motivate his troops but to offer them temporary pleasures they might have been too timid to partake of while there was yet hope of redemption?  Evil does not look to reform and better itself, it looks only to deepen in the course it pursues.  What level of immorality could scarcely be imagined now, is fully set loose now that only one final battle remains.  Once again, the decisions to be lost or saved are seen cemented in the continued choices and actions of those in both camps.  The righteous are racked with grief at their own inadequacy in loving the lost back to redemption.  While the wicked are steeped in nothing but hate to see those who they formerly purported to love, killed to get out of their way.
Despite everything, despite the clarity of these revelations given to John and to us, NO ONE changes their minds or pursues a different course.  It is at this point, when the wicked approach the city of New Jerusalem descended from God to our world for the final battle, that a pause occurs.  The sky will serve as the 3D HD TV Screen from which a movie will be presented.  It is the actual story of humanity, of the genesis of evil, of the mission of love to redeem.  It is the story of His sacrifice here in life and on Calvary.  And within this picture is revealed to each individual the history of the attempts by God to see each of them redeemed.  All will see what Christ did.  All will see what was done in their own lives to see them redeemed.  And the results of this panoramic picture, perhaps the greatest movie ever played will have a unified result, even in the camp of the wicked.  ALL will bow before Christ and acknowledge that only the Lamb is worthy of worship and praise.  It is an involuntary response from a heart and sentient mind created by God.  No one can help themselves from doing anything other than this, up to and including Satan himself.
What happens next however is the reaction and distinction between good and evil.  The righteous once again have prostrated themselves before the Lamb, throwing their crowns to the ground at the thought of their own unworthiness.  They rise only as He comforts them and assures them once again of His so great love for them.  They think only to serve this God of Love in any way they can, according to His great purpose.  They carry no weapons.  They intend no blood shed.  They are not there to fight.  They are armed with only a love and gratitude to Christ that cannot be comprehended by us now, or by those who lay before them at that time.  They, like God, long for a different outcome.  They wish only that those who are lost, who at least now have seen the worthiness of Christ would seek one more time a chance at redemption.  Perhaps even now it is not too late.  But alas, one moment of clarity in the lives of evil, does not result in any desire to change.
And so it begins.  The evil ones rise from their acknowledgement of the love of Christ, with only one thought on their collective minds, to kill Christ.  They realize that so great a love exists, and since they cannot be a part of it, they must kill it to have peace.  But like at His second coming, this battle will end before it begins.  John continues in verse 9 saying … “And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. [verse 10] And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
Notice first that the attacking troops are “devoured” by the fires of God.  The devil is thrown into a lake of fire and will die last, in order that he suffer the longest and be punished for the magnitude of his deceptions and evil and pain he has caused.  John continues in verse 11 … “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. [verse 12] And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”  He who longed to be their savior, stands now to impose the sentences of those who have been judged in the courts of heaven.  There is no escape for any who have refused to embrace redemption.  All men and women, both small and great are to have sentences passed.  They will burn and suffer in proportion to the pain they have caused. 
John continues in verse 13 … “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”  There is no form of death that a wicked person could have experienced in this life that does not give way to these series of events.  Whether lost in a drowning in the depths of the sea, or obliterated in the blast of an atomic weapon, all the lost have been raised, all have seen the judgment of Christ, and all are to now experience the lake of fire in direct proportion to the pain they have caused.  Those who have caused little pain for others will be consumed fully and quickly.  Those who have caused much pain for others will be consumed slower, and will die only over a period of time, receiving in direct proportion to what they have caused, the pain they have wrought.
The effects of this punishment are to be eternal, just as the choice while they lived to embrace evil would not be altered even after seeing the great love of Christ in attempting to redeem them.  There will be no further chances at redemption, nor any further resurrections to look forward to.  Whatever the length of lifeline they have lived to date, it is to be their last.  Immortality is NOT on the menu.  A permanent existence even in torture is NOT to be their fate.  They are to burn, and die, and be no more.  Satan and his demonic hoard will die last, but die they will.  The universe is to be cleansed of all evil, not have it exist forever, even in a tortured state.  Justice demands the death of evil, not its continual preservation. 
Imagine the alternative for a moment.  If traditional views of hell were correct, then Satan is obviously not impacted by the flames, or otherwise how is he able to continue to deceive mankind for the last 6000 years while hell was going on, presumably starting with Cain.  After some period of time humans will adapt to a pain that does not kill them.  It is in our nature to do this.  So either God would have to constantly continue to invent new ways to cause us pain, or whatever the fires do, would eventually become commonplace to us.  Then too, even if punishment could be eternally causing pain, at what point would our sentence be served and the demands of justice met?  Even Hitler, should have atoned for his murders at some point.  It might take 6 million years to atone, or perhaps 6 billion, but at some point doesn’t Hitler have the right to state that his debt is paid?  Eternal torture perpetuates evil forever, instead of eliminating it as God has promised.  And can you imagine the acts of evil that would continue even in a venue like hell, if hell were a place that lasts forever.  Lastly, how could any of us, the redeemed who think of nothing but to love others, find happiness while those who we loved, continue to exist in a state of perpetual torture.  None of this makes sense.  It is a misrepresentation of the character of God, as told to us by His enemy, and with attempts at using scripture to prove it.
Our traditional teachings of an eternally burning hell are the doctrines of the enemy, designed to perpetuate a myth of an unfair God who desires pain and not redemption.  But to punctuate this fact, and undo any lingering doubts in our minds, John continues and concludes this epitaph in verse 14 … “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. [verse15] And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”  The final thing to be consumed by the fires sent by God are “death” and “hell”.  Death itself is to be put to an end.  Once Satan has died, once there are no more alive who have chosen to embrace evil, death will NO longer be relevant or needed in our universe ever again.  Its purpose will be ended with no future victims of its concepts.  Evil will now be in a state of non-existence.  Only good will remain.  The fires will go out.  They will do their eternal job, in inflicting an eternal punishment, but then when the job is completed, they will be needed no more.  There is to be no more hell.  There is to be no more death.  They are both to be ended.  This revelation is to be their epitaph.
There is no balance between good and evil, as these are mutually exclusive concepts where only one can rule.  Should evil win, life itself would cease to exist for all the roads of evil lead to death, the death of others, and eventually the death of self to escape what we become.  Balance, has never been needed.  Balance, is the mantra of the enemy.  Good does not need evil to survive or find identity.  Good is love, and it will on this day, overcome evil forever more.  In the battle between good and evil, good was always destined to win, as existence itself was the prize in question.  Evil is destined to die, to be extinguished forever in every form. 
From this point forward, even death will be gone forever.  The cycle of life is all we have ever known.  We witness in the leaves of the trees, the cycle of birth, growth, decline, decay, and rebirth.  But once death is gone, perhaps the leaves will be ever green.  Perhaps there is no decay anymore, perhaps to pluck a rose from a bush is to begin a new plant as a result.  We have no idea what it means to live life without the reminders of our own mortality.  We live now treasuring every moment because of the brevity of our lives, but then perhaps we will live treasuring every moment because every moment will have no end.
We might have thought the story of our redemption ended when once we were reunited with Christ.  And perhaps our redemption story was over at that point.  But scripture did not end then, nor did the revelations of Jesus Christ given to John.  The disposition of evil in finality had yet to be given, the ending of death itself was an important point that must be relayed.  This revelation helps us understand what love means, and what justice means.  This revelation dictates the end of evil forever and ever.  It amplifies the finality of the choices we make.  Should we elect to be redeemed, it will be so by the power and love of Jesus Christ.  But should we elect to place our salvation in ourselves, our self-deception will be our undoing.  The evil within us MUST be removed.  For ALL evil will one day meet its end.  If it is still a part of us on that day, our fate will be that of evil.  If we trust to Jesus Christ, our fate will be that of love that remains.
But even now, scripture was not to be at an end.  There is yet more to be revealed.  There is yet more to this story …

Saturday, September 20, 2014

An Epitaph for Death [part one] ...

Perhaps the most significant thing about the revelation given to John in chapter twenty of his book is its position in both time and venue.  The second coming of Christ to take us home has already occurred.  The seventh item in the series of seven prophecies all throughout this book has been fulfilled (with perhaps one exception, the work of the seventh angel described in the next few verses).  The point simply is that from a human perspective, the most important event to see us reconciled to God has ALREADY occurred.  We are already reunited.  We are already to experience paradise and perfection, finally and fully.  But while we have played the role of “the redeemed” in this great conflict of good versus evil, of love-of-others verses love-of-self, the story is greater than us, it always was.  The final disposition of evil must now occur so that its universal eradication can be complete.
The war being over, God could have ended evil at his second coming event for all time.  But He chooses not to.  He brings to a temporary end the lives of humanity who refused His redemption, but then He delays the final disposition of lost humanity for another 1000 years.  He did not need to do this.  He would have been right to exterminate evil when it first began.  He would have been right to exterminate it again just after it cost Him the life of His only son, as Satan proved just how far evil would sink in killing God.  He would have been right again to exterminate evil forever at His second coming.  But He delayed in all these 3 events.  Why? 
Perhaps because only He would have known for sure that He was right about exterminating evil when Lucifer first refused to trust Him and began the descent into evil.  The rest of the angels and unfallen worlds would not have had the chance to see just how far evil would sink right at that time.  Perhaps because He held out hope that Lucifer might still change His mind, before He actually determined to see Christ killed on the cross of Calvary.  Perhaps He knew only the unfallen universe who had witnessed these events might be sure at Calvary and mankind still unconvinced.  Now, after the second coming, He once again allows more time to pass, so that mankind can see for himself in the aftermath of our world’s history of evil, why those who refused redemption would never change their mind.  Despite His own perfect knowledge of how bad evil is, He allows His creations to see it as well, so that we maintain our freedom of choice, and never repeat the mistakes that led up to the genesis of evil ever again.
John begins in verse one writing … “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.”  The work of the seventh angel now begins.  Our world lays in shambles but there is one whose prison sentence is about to begin.  John continues in verse 2 saying … “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,”.  Satan is to be bound for a millennia.  He will no longer be free to travel the extents of the universe.  He will be chained to the destruction he has caused.  The effects of the plagues are still upon our world.  This is not a happy place, no beauty remains, everything is in a state of utter destruction.  Verse 3 continues … “And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.”
In these verses are described a thousand year prison sentence for Satan and his demonic following throng.  They are to be bound in isolation with each other for 1000 years with no humanity left to torture or deceive.  Fallen mankind will be asleep in death for this 1000 years, only to be raised at its conclusion when Satan will be “loosed for a little season”.  You will again notice the absence of certain common beliefs in what is described here.  First, there is no eternally burning hell where everyone wicked has been thrown into as yet.  Instead, Satan is “alone” in this 1000 year punishment.  Second, Satan himself is not said to be in a state of God imposed flames of physical torture, but instead only constrained in a destroyed world alone with his demons to think about what he has done.  It is a “time out” for evil.  And finally, notice that when fallen mankind dies, their “spirits” or “souls” go nowhere.  They sleep the sleep of death for this period of time, they exist in no other plain of existence where they might continue to be deceived or otherwise tortured by Satan at all.
The events described by John in just these few texts again put an end to our ideas about an eternal hell that has always been in existence where Satan resides comfortably, and fallen mankind enters at the moment of their death to be tortured forever as disembodied souls.  Dead fallen men sleep just like dead righteous ones, without memory, without a continuance to another form of existence.  For what God said to Adam was true, we are not immortal, and we do not live forever in any state, we die.  It is God alone who can create us, raise us, give us life and make it last eternally.  Death is a state of non-existence, similar to sleep in that the passage of time and events happens without any awareness on our part.  The fire that will finally consume evil and for that matter death itself, is YET to come.  These events occur BEFORE that final ending.  If Satan were to be ruling in hell (as commonly believed), his numerous souls would serve as an eternal kingdom for him to delight in their deception and torture forever.  This makes both Satan, evil, and humanity effectively immortal.  These ideas are simply not supported in these passages revealed to John by Christ.
Next, consider the state of fallen mankind when they are finally raised from their tombs at the end of the 1000 year sentence on Satan.  There is no promise of perfection for those who have refused it their entire lives.  They do not come out of their graves to a welcoming Lord, but rather in the same condition they went into their graves with.  They are still sick, still perverted, still evil, still clinging to the same thoughts and actions that were occurring right before their death.  They are also raised into a fully destroyed world.  There are no mansions to greet them.  There is only their leader, who they have surrendered to, Satan who at this point needs soldiers most of all.  He works his deceptions once again, and uses his supernatural powers to heal the wounds and weaknesses in the soldiers he will need to fight against God for one final battle.  His numbers and ranks will be fully resupplied with this fresh crop of recruits.  He need only convince them, there is hope in a united mankind in opposing the will of God.
But that scene is still forthcoming as John takes us back to the start of the millennia in verse 4 writing … “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”  The redeemed live and reign with Christ for a thousand years.  The books of life and death are opened, the seals having been broken by the Lamb of God.  Judgment occurs.  Not the judgment of God, for that was already completed.  Now it is up to perfect mankind to verify the perfect attempts of God for the redemption of those who steadfastly refused to accept it.
Our God allows 1000 years for us to review His work in the lives of those who we loved, and are not there in the kingdom with us.  And so begins a terrible realization; we were the tools of God to be used in the salvation of others.  And it is we who SO often did not love as we should have.  We did not value the souls of others as highly as we should have, and in our sinful selfish state, we have been a cause in their downfall.  So many opportunities to save them squandered on the altar of our self-love, and selfish motives.  God had to use other means to reach these lost souls, because of our refusal to be a part of their redemption, finding ourselves too busy to help out.  How many lost souls will have heard nothing but the voice of condemnation from us in the quest to save them?  How many of us mistakenly thought that calling sin by its right name was more important than bringing the wounded sinner to the Savior who longs to heal that pain?  How much hate speech will we have carried only to see now where hate of any kind leads.
But despite our own responsibility and culpability in the loss of those we loved, God did not let our inadequacy cause the loss of one He so loved.  His efforts to reach the lost remain perfect, and the most that anyone could have ever done.  Our lack of participation stands only to us as an opportunity forever lost to us.  We have lost the opportunity to serve in the most important work of all time, the redemption of souls.  We lose this because of our refusal to submit to Him in full.  We bring our own ideas about salvation to the lost, and instead of achieving redemption, we drive them further into the despair of pain and sin, providing no way of escape, choosing rather to point out their pain and publicly make it worse for them.  Such are the results of a judgmental gospel.  The realization of what we have done, and the effects of it on others, will now overwhelm those who have perfected hearts, and know what it truly means to love others.  The work of God to perfect how we love, now threatens to shatter us in the realization of how our selfishness caused so much pain.  It is here where God must wipe away the tears from our eyes.
John continues in verse 5 … “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. [verse 6] Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”  Here John makes a distinction between the righteous who are raised from the dead at the “first” resurrection, and the wicked who are raised at the end of the thousand years.  Those who come out of their graves to the arms of a welcoming Lord, are brought out in a state of perfection, and will never taste death again.  Life will be the only state of being they know from that point on.  Death is a thing of the past for righteous ones who emerge from their graves to see the face of Jesus.  They are to be priests of God and Christ, taking their place in reviewing the judgment of the wicked over this thousand year period.  However those raised in the second resurrection, the one for the wicked dead, they are to be destined to experience the “second death” – a death or state of non-existence that is eternal in nature.
The epitaph for Death is begun but not quite yet ended as our study will continue in part two …


Friday, September 12, 2014

The Contrast of Finality [part two] ...

The scene in heaven is one of overwhelming joy at the impending return of Jesus Christ to our world.  Praises are exclaimed by the first fruits, by the 24 elders, by the four beasts, and by the sentient life across the universe.  But where joy is at its pinnacle, it has an equal contrast in the sin sick world below.  The contrast stands as dark as the light which is its opposite.  The finality of what is about to transpire will set a mark in the history of evil that cannot be undone.  Where heaven rejoices, the world below prepares for a war.  Where love seeks to bring life, renewal, and reconciliation for the redeemed; darkness seeks death, compulsion, and the conquering of any who dissent.  Those who follow Jesus Christ have long awaited His return to take us to our real home – wherever He is.  But for as much anticipation as true Christians hold within them, those who are not destined to be made free from self-love loathe the idea of an early end to their dark desires.  For them, the time to commit sin, to acquire more, to indulge themselves is nearly over.  It is as infinite a darkness they continue to descend into, as is the light we aspire to achieve.
But if there is to be another war, forced by the dark depths of evil itself, then a warrior will they meet.  It is in triumph our Lord is to return to us.  His meek and humble demeanor was ever present to bring us to Himself.  But now, His enemies will see, that love forever rejected is not powerless, it is not weak, it is not so easily defeated on the field of battle.  John reveals the picture of Christ returning to our world as we continue in chapter 19 and verse 11 saying … “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.”  If there are four horsemen who represent the decay of the church who bore His name, there is now a fifth horsemen who intends to reclaim it, both His name, and His people.  Jesus Christ is called Faithful and True.  He is faithful in that our salvation has been wrought in us, despite our lack of knowledge as to “how” this has occurred.  We cannot understand how our evil desires have been replaced by good ones, because we did not accomplish this transformation. HE did!  His word is made True within us, as all of the promises of redemption have resulted in a transformation of who we are, from slaves to self, to freedom to love others.
John points out, that evil is not to be allowed to run free and make all the decisions of what will happen next.  It is our God who judges.  It is the opinions and decisions of our God that are final.  What evil desires and wishes is to be made of no account.  If there is war to happen, our Lord will not shy away.  It is He who will bring war to evil, such as evil has not considered possible up to now.  Bathed in self-deception, evil has convinced itself, it can win based of the sheer force of will.  It is wrong.  John continues to describe the scene in verse 12 saying … “His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.”  Evil cannot stand in the presence of love, for love consumes it entirely.  The eyes of our Lord appear as a flame of fire, for to look into them is to see the infinite love of God.  Evil sees this love as a consuming fire from which it cannot escape.  It is why Moses was only allowed to see the back of God, not His face.  Had the Lord revealed Himself and His infinite love directly and unfiltered to Moses, it would have consumed Him for its magnitude.  Moses while still clinging to the sins he cherished could not have stared into those eyes without revealing the evil he still had within himself, and thus being consumed by love.
On the head of our Lord is not a single crown to imply an ordinary kingship, rather there are “many” crowns, to signify He is not just a King, but a King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.  No matter how great any king in this world has risen to prominence, no matter how high we believe ourselves to have ascended, we are reminded here there is One who is FAR greater than any of us.  Neither David, nor Solomon, nor Nebuchnezzar, nor Alexander the Great, nor any since will be able to compare in the slightest to the Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.  In the days of John, a king was a well understood concept.  His authority was absolute in the region in which he ruled.  There were no democracies, there was no place to appeal beyond the authority of the king.  So the imagery presented to John is something he fully understands and grasps, it is our Lord who is the real King, and the greatest King to have ever existed.
John also reminds us that He bears a name which no man knows except He Himself.  We do not really know the name of the Father God.  The closest name we ascribe to Him is YAHWEH, based on the systemic substitution of the letters YHWH wherever His true name existed in scripture.  This was a precaution taken by Jewish scribes to insure we never took His real name in vain.  Hard to do that when we do not truly know what it is.  But in this scene of His returning, Jesus bears the name of our God, which we have lost and do not know.  His identity, His name, will be revealed to us at that time, even John is not granted insight for his revelations to show it to us now.  We must wait to see it, to read it, to have Him tell it to us. 
John continues in verse 13 … “And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.”  The Lord’s method for saving us, was to take upon Himself, the punishment we deserved.  It is by His blood, that our own can be preserved.  Thus he returns in a vesture, whether this is his entire clothing, or perhaps a breastplate, or vest, it is dipped in the Blood He shed for our redemption.  John again refers to Jesus Christ as the “Word of God”.  Keep in mind this is how the gospel of John begins, that the Word was God.  He continues in verse 14 … “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.”  The host of the redeemed first fruits, perhaps the angels who have supported their Lord before in battle, perhaps other sentient life who rally to the command of their Lord, all stand arrayed to witness the triumph of the power of love over evil, even evil which will not relent.  The garments of the redeemed first fruits are white and clean, this is only possible because the garment of our Lord is soaked in His own blood.  It is His blood that has made us righteous.
John continues in verse 15 … “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. [verse 16] And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”  The words of our Lord cleave those they encounter.  For those who submit themselves to Him, we are cleaved of our sin, and left remade in His righteousness.  For those who refuse to submit, they too are cleaved and smited and overcome, their decision to refuse respected, but their lives of evil cut short as a result.  There is no disputing His word, there is only accepting it, or accepting the consequences of sin and death instead.  The rod of iron which He is to rule with, stands as the immutable principles of loving others, and not loving self.  This is a non-negotiable item for our God, and His government.  Satan’s attempts at balance, at bringing in the ideas of self-love even if only in small quantities are to be no more, they are defeated.  There will be only one kind of love in the kingdom of our Lord, a love of others, not self.
John reminds us again of the imagery of treading the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  Love does not enjoy the pain that selfishness brings.  Love for others hates what love of self brings.  The sympathy and frustration and patience of trying so hard to see pain and death redeemed now gives way to an anger with the suffering that love of self has caused.  Evil has made its choice.  That choice will be respected.  And now it will see how much the Lord hates pain, hates death, hates suffering that evil causes – the anger is to be poured out without mixture, without dilution, without shelter upon those who have embraced the course of evil.  Those who have chosen to love self above all else, and refused the redemption and transformation gifted by our Lord, are to now experience what that choice means.  They are to have their own suffering revealed to them, returned to them.  What they have wrought upon others in a quest to please self, is about to come home to themselves, they will now see what it means to suffer personally, not just to remain in apathy as their victims suffered.
John again makes it clear that the name on His thigh is a final declaration of His authority in all matters.  Our God is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.  His authority will be unquestioned, undisputed, and the steeped in a finality that cannot be undone.  What is about to transpire is a final mark in the history of evil that will never be undone.  Evil wanted a battle, so a battle is coming.  Evil deceived itself into thinking a victory was possible, that self-deception is about to be undone, and truth revealed.  John continues in verse 17 saying … “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; [verse 18] That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.”
The angel standing in the sun calls to the birds of the air to gather themselves together as they will be on clean-up-duty for the battle about to transpire.  There is not even a question about who will be losing this battle and who will be winning it.  It is not the humble, selfless, servants of God who will be consumed by the fowls of the air, it is the proud men of the earth.  Both those who think themselves as great, and those who know they are not.  It is those who seek to war against what is coming, rather than submit to a power that could have freed them.  The hold of the beast over those who bear his mark is complete.  They are fully self-deceived.  They fully believe the false prophet and imposter of all the known deities is indeed the only god they need serve.  Who else could come to disrupt what their god tells them?  Who else could bring disruption to the order their god demands?  The ideas of the Bible, the culmination of the return of our Lord, does not so much as enter their heads.  This must be some sort of alien invasion, like in the multitude of science fiction movies they have seen.  How could it be otherwise, if god is already here?
John continues in verse 19 … “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.”  Armageddon has arrived.  Despite the clarity, despite the finality, despite the contrast of an army dressed in white, led by a God who will surely be undefeatable, the war will go on.  They see Him coming as He promised, yet vow to fight on.  They know in the deep recesses of their minds, that He who is returning is the Truth, the Way, and the Life.  They know it is Jesus Christ who descends now with His angelic throng, yet despite the certainty of truth, there is nothing left to do, but to war on.  Even now, the stubbornness of evil is revealed.  Even now, there is no change of heart or mind, there is only a deepening in the course of sin they have embraced.  Instead of surrendering and pleading for mercy though the time for this has past, they will even now, refuse the mercy or love they might have otherwise already gained access to.  The decisions are final.  The contrasts of finality have been set, there is no going back, there is no vacillation, there is only to move forward into war.
John continues in verse 20 … “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”  There is a special fate reserved for those who have led this deception, and who have sought to lead the genocide of the followers of Jesus Christ alone.  The beast, the dragon, the second beast, and the third – Satan and all those who have led the quest to compel the conscience of others, the leaders of these ideas, from papal supremists, to Islamic facists, to atheistic proponents, to fundamentalist protestant militants – the leadership of this war against Christ are to be cast alive into a lake of fire.  This will consume the earthly participants, and push the supernatural ones into a state of punishment.  The leadership is dealt with in a special way at the outset of the battle evil has chosen to pursue.
John then continues in verse 21 saying … “And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.”  Those who remain of the evil in this world; the followers, the passive aggressives, the apathetic, the self-denialists, those who would still attempt to rationalize their way out of this dilemma - are to be slain by the word of God.  A simple command from the Lord of Lords, and King of Kings, ends the lives of those who would have sought to end His once again.  The battle does not last, it does not involve casualties on both sides, but only on one.  It is not a battle that can be ended by retreat, to live to fight another day.  It is over.  It is ended, with the leadership consumed in a lake of fire, and the rabble evil hoard fallen by the words of Christ.  It is quick and decisive with zero survivors.  The saved have already been caught up in the clouds to greet Him in the air.  His foot has never even had to touch the ground to fight this war or to win it.  It was won while he yet approached.  The dead in Christ have already been awakened by the sound of the trumpet, they have already been called from their graves to meet Him in the air.  The scene John describes is about the contrast of the saved with those who are not.
The finality of this battle cannot be understated.  The contrast is stark and eternal.  Fates have been forever sealed when once the decision to compel the conscience of men was embraced.  Now the results of that decision are to be seen.  It is death that was chosen.  Like the Pharaoh of old who sought to kill the Israelites, and instead found his firstborn slain; so the wicked who sought to kill those who dissented from their majority view point now find it is them who are to be slain.  The choice to pursue blood, has been respected, but the result was to find it is their own blood that is spilled.  The outcome was not expected, but it was chosen.  If evil had its way, the righteous of the earth, the humble, gentle, followers of Jesus Christ who are guilty of nothing but loving others, would be completely dead and gone from the earth.  This was the plan of the enemy.  He sought to kill every living thing that follows Christ, and kill the God of our universe, once again.  His plan was foiled.  His choice altered by an outcome he did not wish.  There are slain to feed the birds as the angel predicted only moments ago.  But as predicted, the slain are those steeped in the evil of self-love.
The most longed for event in human history, is also the most destructive and hated event in human history.  The contrast of life and death has never been so apparent as now.  Those who love others experience an infinite joy, that overwhelms them entirely.  Those who love self, experience pain and an early demise, to be cut short of all their evil intentions, goals, and desires.  Those who love self, HATE what has come.  They hate His return.  They hate His followers.  They hate that gentle demeanor, that speaks and acts of nothing but love for others.  The contrasts of finality have long been set.  How this event in the history of our world is perceived is defined by the construct of the character you retain when it occurs.  Will you stand with the redeemed of Jesus Christ, who have allowed His transforming love to free you from your slavery to serving self?  Or will you take your place with the demonic hoard who look for no greater glory than to indulge self just one more time before it ends?
This battle is over before it begins.  It was always going to be so.  This revelation however has a much deeper significance.  Because this revelation is given to you today, BEFORE, these things occur, BEFORE your decisions are final.  You have the luxury of time in the here and now, to determine which side of this conflict you intend to be identified with.  These truths are sure and certain, but they also remain in the future as of today.  Our nation has not yet implemented the universal call to take on the mark of the third beast.  Our churches have not yet abandoned Christ and called for the killing of any who will dissent with the majority view.  We are on the road to these things, but they remain as yet, incomplete.   There is still time.  Time is the gift you are given today.  You can read this revelation in a time that is not yet advanced as far as the scriptures surely foretell.
That is the point of these revelations.  They are NOT a history book, offering no hope for the reader.  They are a prediction of what is to come.  In the day of John, nearly everything was set in a current or future tense.  In our own day, six of the series of seven things, have come to pass.  The seventh is still ahead of us.  While we do not look as did John, with a wealth of future time to see ourselves embrace the salvation of Jesus Christ; it is still not too late yet.  But the highway we travel towards these events will not be deterred or delayed much longer.  These revelations, like the remainder of the gospel, stand as a love letter from your true God.  They remain an invitation to start the process of transformation to perfection in the here and now.  They offer a surety that your salvation will be witnessed by you through the power of Jesus Christ alone.  This is NOT about fear tactics.  Only the wicked have reason to be afraid.  Those who would be free, have reason to rejoice, because freedom stands ready to be embraced.
The contrast of how you view these events, and these sure predictions, is an indication of where you stand with Christ today.  If what is written, strikes fear in your heart, then pray to submit yourself to Christ, and let His peace, replace your fear.  If what is written appears to you as a message of hope and love, then pray a prayer of thanksgiving that your salvation has already begun; pray that your submission can be full and complete and immediate, so that your joy can only grow in the here and now.  This battle, though still in the future, and marked by a contrast that cannot be undone, was not to be the final battle.  There was to be one more.  There was to be an epitaph of death itself still to be witnessed …

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Contrasts of Finality [part one] ...

We have only ever known the events preceding the end of all things, of life as we know it.  For 4,000 years the people of this world waited in anticipation of the first coming of the Messiah.  All they ever knew were the events that preceded His first coming.  Many slept before that great day of our salvation arrived, before God became man, and showed the world what it means to love each other.  So now, we live on the other side of the coming of the Messiah, on the precipice of the end.  We are on the brink of the abyss, staring over its edge into the unknown.  But the reason for revelation is to demystify what is coming, to remove the fear, to maintain the peace of Christ.  John was given these beautiful Revelations of Jesus Christ in order that we see our salvation plainly, understand the attacks of the enemy in order to avoid deception, and know with surety, the outcome of the coming battles as well as the end of this war between good and evil.
All of the Revelations given to John thus far pointed to the events now about to unfold.  Every love-soaked message, every warning, every admonition, every prediction, was designed to lead mankind to the foot of the cross, to find our salvation based in Jesus Christ alone.  In the end, there are only 2 sides, a final contrast between good and evil as reflected in the people who walk the earth.  There is NO middle ground.  There are not 50 shades of gray, nor any other variety.  There are not many paths to God, there is only one.  There is only the blackness of infinite depth that comes packaged in the slavery of self-love.  And there remains its contrast: the bright white light of freedom to love others that is the basis of perfection, harmony with God, and comes in the form of our salvation brought about solely by Jesus Christ.  These 2 contrasting ways of life are all that exist in the end.
Those who bear the mark of the third beast, are content to compel the conscience of others.  They live to exert control.  They are wholly blind to the hate that lives within them, to the bloodlust they are so free to express.  They have deceived themselves into thinking that to kill those who do not share their majority view, is to do the work of God Himself.  But in truth, in Christ, they do not serve truth, nor Christ.  They serve only the dragon, who has only ever sought to compel the minds, hearts, and deeds of mankind in his self-based-service.  By contrast, God has only ever offered a choice to accept His love or not.  To be a true choice, what is selected by mankind must be respected, it must be allowed.  Those who have chosen to find salvation through Jesus Christ alone, MUST find it, or God is not God.  Those who have chosen to seek salvation in themselves in any way, or to seek salvation not at all, are to be allowed to have that choice respected in finality for all time.
What changes about our world at the end of all things, is not the choice, or the results of that choice – it is the finality of that choice.  For 6,000 years, God has waited patiently.  He has tolerated our lives steeped in evil, in order to see us redeemed from them.  He has longed for us to choose the freedom He offers.  He has put up with our refusal to come to Him.  He has shielded us from the pain our choices cause, protected us while we spit in His face, denied His victories, claimed credit for His deeds.  He has faithfully loved us, while we were anything but faithful in return.  He has acted as a loving parent trying so desperately to protect an erring child from the path of self-destruction they have chosen to embrace.  But patience has its limit, time for evil is not infinite, and evil is unrelenting.  Should time be allowed to progress forever, evil would consume every living thing it touches, till none remain.  Ironically, it is not God who forces the end of all things to be.  It is mankind.
When once the compulsion of the conscience upon pain of death is embraced by mankind the world over, mankind will have forced the finality of his own decision.  In effect, our decisions will be written in blood one way or the other.  For those who believe, and who define their identity in following Jesus Christ alone, we write our decision in the blood of Christ.  For those who refuse, they write their decision in the blood of the saints.  Whether Cain, or Abel, whether saved by Christ, or lost to self, the finality of our choice MUST be respected, or it is not a choice at all.
The plagues that John has only recently described were poured out, only AFTER this choice was made.  Evil has suffered the judgments of God, only AFTER evil determined it would never change its mind, it would never choose to be reconciled to God.  And the destruction that evil has embraced is now seen poured out into the world.  The evil woman, the Jezebel, the mother of harlots, and great whore of blending self into the process of our salvation has been judged of God.  She is to be slain.  Babylon, that great city, that government who should have been the light of the world, whose wealth made all rich; has used its power and might to bring destruction through the threat of commerce to the entire globe.  The false prophet, the impersonator of all deities, the dragon has now marshalled his forces to war against the returning lamb.  The contrast is made evident again.  Those who await the return of Love, hide from hate, choosing not to confront it, or kill it, or even to hurt it.  Those who think themselves as pure, and in blind zeal follow their false god, seek to kill any who dissent.  They seek no redemption of their foes, only their extermination.
The contrasts of finality are set.  Evil stands armed, ready, and desiring to kill those who would gently oppose it.  The righteous are buried in the love of Christ, they care for each other, and reflect such deep sorrow for those who WILL not seek love evermore.  The saved seek life.  The lost seek death.  The finality of their choices must be respected to be considered choices at all.  It is in this final scene, that John reveals the contrast of the second coming of Christ.  Believers have only ever longed to see this day.  Many will report, will consider, will think, that they long for it.  But they will be disappointed.  The Pharisees too, did nothing but devote their entire lives to the study of the word.  They lived every day reading, debating, and trying to deepen their understanding of scriptures, of the law, and of God’s will.  They too longed for the Messiah.  They just longed for different kind of savior. 
But when the Messiah appeared, He brought with Him a return to the simple, humble, message of love and service to others.  And the inflated ego of the Pharisees would not accept it.  They had mastered the law and the scriptures, and were wholly ignorant of the love behind them both.  They had put their trust for salvation in the power of self, in the mastery of what “they” learned from scriptures.  They needed no dependence on something outside of themselves to be saved, and thus they were comfortable with murdering the Giver of the law, and the scriptures they devoted their lived to study.  So at the end, history repeats.  Many Christians now stand armed and ready to slay all those who will not yield their conscience to the views of the majority.  They bear the name of Christ, and live the hate of the dragon.
But for those who love others, the end of pain is thing of celebration.  The finality of the triumph of love is a moment all have waited for.  So against this backdrop John continues to reveal what transpires in chapter 19 and very 1 saying … “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:”  The first fruits of His salvation, those who were raised from the dead at His crucifixion and returned to God as the first fruits of humanity now praise the Lord their God and our God.  They cry out to honor Him, for He alone is worthy of glory.  He alone has shown the definition of glory in unselfish love to others.  He alone is worthy of honor and power, for His love is more powerful than all the evil that ever has existed.  And His salvation is His gift to us.
John continues in verse 2 … “For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. [verse 3] And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.”  There is a respect for finality in the praising statements the first fruits offer.  The judgments of God, His stamp of approval or denial have been made known as to the all the false doctrines of the churches who claim His name, and serve the dragon.  Those who sought to find salvation in themselves, whether alone, or in part, have found only the results of evil’s punishments poured out on their doomed efforts.  The many true followers who they killed in the name of a saving God, are avenged in the plain declaration of God’s disapproval of their actions.  The finality of this question is to be made clear, and permanent.  The phrase John uses is “her smoke rose up for ever and ever”.  The results of God’s judgments are final, there will be no additional discussions, no revisions, no edits, no opinions.  The matter has been judged, and the results are to be eternal, for ever and ever.
Notice here, it is not the torment of the whore that is to be eternal.  She is not to be tortured forever.  These texts reveal she is already dead, burnt, and gone.  It is her smoke, the after-effects of her destruction, her lack of existence, and the memory of her error, that is to last forever.  She does not stay in a state of perpetual dying.  She does not get to live on, whether in agony, or through adapting to pain, to live a tortured existence constantly bemoaning her state.  Eternal life, even in agony, is NOT her fate.  But she is to die.  And she is to remain dead.  The memory of her evil choices lives on the smoke, but not her consciousness, nor her body.  The dead know not anything.  She will sleep the sleep of non-existence, neither sharing the joy of love, nor the agony of dying.  It is a contrast in finality.
John continues in verse 4 … “And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.”  Here again the 24 elders, the representatives of our world that sit closest to God and witness His work for our salvation, praise Him who gives freely to all the redeemed.  In addition, the 4 beasts, or representatives of the other creations of our God, the other sentient life around the universe we know so little of, also praise Him.  Notice how they humble themselves, by lowering themselves, in effect falling to the ground.  When we see the love of God through the lens of perfection, even after millennia, it overwhelms us, and causes us to prostrate ourselves before the glory of His love.  We will never fully understand it, forever learning more of its depths, and trying better to reflect it.  The time of the redemption of mankind is not just a cause for human celebration, it is one for universal celebration.  There is no “prodigal’s brother” in this story, only servants of the King who are glad to throw a celebration at the redemption of he who was lost and is found.
John continues in verse 5 … “And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.”  We do not know the source of this voice.  Perhaps it is the voice of the Holy Spirit, perhaps the voice of the archangel.  Both the cause of celebration is to be universal, both in our world, and in all the other unfallen worlds across the galaxies.  The response comes quickly as John continues in verse 6 … “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”  The response echoes across the universe, it sounds like rushing water, like thunder, in its declaration of praise and thanksgiving.  It is likely many voices in one accord, all echo the praise our God deserves.
John continues in verse 7 … “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. [verse 8] And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”  Here John recalls the analogy of the wedding feast Jesus spoke of so long ago.  Five foolish virgins and five wise who took the extra precautions to be ready with extra oil – in this case he focuses attention on the bride herself, the church of Christ, the true followers of Jesus.  There are they who love.  These are they who cannot imagine breaking His laws of love, nor choosing to follow another, nor identifying themselves as anything other than followers of Jesus Christ.  These do not kill.  They love.  These do not compel.  They invite and accept.  These do not condemn, they focus on redemption.  These have made themselves ready in the acceptance of the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ alone.  Notice how John carefully uses the words “to her was granted”.  This shows that the fine linen, that is clean and white, and represents the righteousness of the saints IS A GIFT!!  It is “granted” to her, it is given to her.  It is not something she earned, performed services for, or bought with her wealth.  It is a gift, granted to her from her Husband.
The angel continues to speak to John in verse 9 … “And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.”  All who are redeemed are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.  In addition all who witness the redemption of fallen mankind from around the universe may well enjoy that invitation too.  We are not the exclusive creations of our God.  We share His love with our fellow created beings.  And perhaps on that long awaited day, we will share a feast with more species than the ones we recognize today.  John’s joy in the reaction to this scene of so great joy overwhelms him as he continues in verse 10 … “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  John is so thankful he is ready to worship the bearer of so good news, but the angel is quick to correct him.  The angels of heaven know, that only God is worthy of worship. 
This angel identifies himself in such simple yet profound language.  He refers to himself as a “fellow servant”.  He too works His part in the mission of our redemption, in SERVICE to others.  In identifying with John he reminds him gently that these revelations are part of his mission in the redemption of mankind.  He then identifies himself secondarily as “of thy brethren”.  The angel considers himself to be part of our family.  He accepts us, even with all our undeserved nature, faults, and history; as a part of his closest kin.  He adopts us into his family without reservation, limitations, or preconditions – sound familiar?  It should.  It is the nature of the love of God reflected through this one of his creations.  He then points out to John, that the testimony of Jesus Christ is the Spirit of Prophecy.  Jesus testified while here of what was to come.  He spoke of what He alone could know was going to take place.  All through this book of revelations, Jesus has revealed Himself and our salvation to John through each and every prophecy. 
The scene in heaven is set to joy, a stark contrast to what lay below it.  The finality of the judgment of God is to be celebrated and lamented.  The contrasts have only begun, more was to unfold in just a few moments …