And so we come to the final day in reading the New Testament.
It ends with an amazing vision.
The Lamb of God, the Living Word, erupts from heaven in glory. It’s a passage that gives me pause, and makes me tremble, every time I read it.
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.
With justice he judges and makes war.
His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns.
He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.
The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”
He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16; NIV84)
With images from the Old Testament, the Word comes forth in John’s vision, with a sword from his mouth (Isaiah 11:4), with the iron rod of rule (Psalm 2:9), treading the winepress of judgement (Isaiah 63:3).
The beast, Satan, is then held captive, for only one given reason – to keep him from deceiving the nations of the world, for what the text calls 1,000 years. Understand this, though. However these verses have been interpreted, the simplest interpretation is the most clear: the force and seduction of evil is not so strong that entire nations of people will see it as their only choice. It’s power is limited, because God has limited it.
So be careful about how you see this amount of time, because if this number is taken literally, then you have no choice but to take every number in the entire book literally.
The martyrs, then, those who gave their very lives for the Lamb, were brought back to life, to reign with Jesus. Staying within what John saw in this vision, again, is the simplest and clearest alternative. This reign, of a “thousand years” is only for those who have been martyred.
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)
They were killed, then, in the presence of Christ, they were brought back to life, in the presence of Christ. The price they paid, for their “testimony,” was worth it.
Yet these “thousand years” come to an end, and Satan is released to fight a losing battle. His release cannot defeat the infinite plan of God, nor can it impede upon God’s holy and perfect city. There are people, in this city, who have accepted God’s forgiveness. And there are people, outside this city, who have refused it. No amount of time can change this.
The forces, too, that aid Satan in this battle, have not changed, which, again, highlights the constant and complete and total miracle of grace – only God can change a heart and offer freedom, while evil can only enslave and struggle.
God’s kingdom, in this book, emerges as victorious, as a new city. In John’s vision, it is a cube, with each side being 1,400 miles in length, made of gold. Gilbert Bilezikian sees this city as God’s complete and perfect vision of a community of people consumed and radically changed by God’s grace. He writes:
… the lavish description of the city’s decorations, of its walls and foundations covered with all kinds of gems, and of the city itself made of a single block of pure gold, fourteen hundred miles high and wide, figuratively suggests an enormous divine investment in the making of the church. For God, the church is the centerpiece of history. He draws on all that is dear and durable from the world and from the passing generations to gather a pilgrim of people destined to be a showcase of his grace for eternity.
To this magnificent project, he devotes all that he as, including the gift of himself in the person of his Son.
A divine investment of grace. I like that.
And so, we come to the end, which is filled with this divine investment, because the very last verse of the last chapter of the last book is all about that very grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. (22:21)
We are reminded, as we close the pages, that all of God’s holy activity on our small and meager planet is an extension of who he is, of who he claims us to be.
It is this grace that rescues us from the mires and consequences of the evil in this world.
It is this grace that allows us to dream kingdom dreams, of a community of people consumed by the love and mercy of God.
It is this grace that shows our world that we are, truly, from a different realm, by the way we’ve been loved, and the way we, in turn, love.
It is this grace that redeems our hearts when they are broken and in pieces.
And it is this grace that confirms for us a place in God’s city as adopted children with full rights to his entire creation.
Grace. It is all about grace.
Thank you, God.
Today is day 90, and the final day of our 90 days. Thank you for joining me. In a few days I’ll have some new thoughts here, about what this experience has been like for me. I want to let it settle, first, and pray over these things.
Blessings to you, dear reader, and I pray you experience the total experience of God’s grace and fullness in your life today.