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“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8
Because the Word is double-edged [Hebrews 4:12], scriptures often list those who will not inherit the kingdom of God in contrast to those who will [i.e. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-25]. Just as light would not be understood without the contrast of darkness, the life that God desires for us is not always clear to the human mind without looking at that which is in opposition to God’s will.
Since God is holy–meaning no impurity or sin is in Him–and since He is the sovereign of heaven–the authority before whom we will stand judgment–it is imperative that we understand what God expects of us, both to do and not to do.
So why does cowardliness make the list? Remember that this letter of Revelation is being circulated among the churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor. Jesus, through John’s writing, tells the churches that they were going to face persecution, hardship, imprisonment and even death for His name’s sake [Revelation 2:3 & 8, 9-11 & 13; 3:8-9]. In each instance, if they held boldly to their faith, if they did not cower from the physical, social and cultural threats of the world [Matthew 10:28], they would be called victorious and receive the inheritance of eternal life. We are not of those who shrink back from the world in fear, renouncing our faith to save our skin [Hebrews 10:39]. Rather we are to stand firm in our faith [1 Corinthians 6:13; Ephesians 6:11-14], boldly proclaiming salvation through Jesus Christ. The cowardly turn their back on God when times get tough. They do not acknowledge Jesus before others; in turn, they will not be acknowledged before God [Matthew 10:32-33].
Obviously, those who do not believe in God will not be saved. For it is, by grace we are saved through faith [Romans 1:5 & 5:2; Ephesians 2:8]. And even if we continue to struggle against sin we can experience God’s grace and, by faith, salvation in our lives. But if we do not have faith, then we will never see heaven.
Vile means morally corrupt. Since morals–standards of belief and behavior–are established by God who is holy, corrupted morals are anything that deviate from His norm. It makes sense then that those who buy into Satan’s lie that we can be our own God and make our own morals [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14], will never inherit the kingdom of God.
This corrupted moral system includes murdering, any sexual behavior that deviates from God’s plan of one man and one woman within the confines of marriage for life, trying to summon magical powers rather than rightly seeking the power of God, creating images of false gods and praying to/worshiping them, and telling lies. Many of these were addressed in the well-known 10-commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]. All of these are natural desires of sinful people, but can be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, and are completely forgiven us through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Who is God in your life? You or God? Not sure? Well, whose standard of right and wrong are you living by? Yours, the world’s or God’s?
“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21
Less than 100 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the apostle John received the vision that we now know as the book of Revelation. It circulated among the churches of key cities in Asia Minor–a Greek province of the Roman Empire–which is modern-day Turkey.
About 150 years later in a port town of this same country, a little boy was born to wealthy, Christian parents. A little boy named Nicholas.
They raised him to know God and love Jesus. Nicholas was still young when his parents died, but believing God and obeying Jesus’ words in Mark 10:21 [and Matthew 19:21], Nicholas used his whole inheritance to help the needy, the sick and the suffering.
He sought to know God more, journeying to Israel so he could walk where Jesus walked and understand Jesus’ passion firsthand. He was a generous man who loved others with the selfless love of God. He was a praying man who saw God’s miracles in response to his prayers.
He went to prison for preaching the gospel and, when he got out, he met with the other church leaders of his day to ensure that Jesus and the Word of God weren’t being distorted or watered down in the churches in any way. Nicholas devoted his whole life to loving God and pointing others to do the same. He spent his whole life proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
How sad he would be to know that in his death people turned their hearts to trust in him rather than in his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That people turned the stories of his faith into magical fictions that fill children’s hearts with disbelief in the one true God so that businesses can make a lot of money.
But this St. Nicholas Day, hear the message of the one we now know as Santa Claus, whispered across the ages–Look to the manger and know that Jesus alone is what makes Christmas real.
Are you following Jesus? Have you given everything to spread the gospel? Do you love everyone you meet with the love of the Lord?
“He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” Revelation 21:6-7
Unbelievable! The entire book of Revelation John has been spoken to by angels, and heard the voice of God the Father and God the Son. But this time, God doesn’t relay His message. He speaks right to John.
And what does God Almighty say? Just as He announced–when the angel poured out the seventh and final bowl of God’s wrath–that sin had met its end [Revelation 16:17], so now He proclaims Gegonen again. Only this time, all of heaven and creation have been made new. The work of the New Creation is done.
It’s interesting to note that, In the beginning [Genesis 1:1], derives from a different word than the Beginning used here. This totally makes sense since God is eternal and His creation is not. Like the Alpha and Omega that begin and end the Greek alphabet–an alphabet which does not contain every possible phoneme, or sound-letter-representative–God is the Beginning and the End of all things, though He Himself does not have a beginning or an end. He exists outside of created time just as His Word–that Word which created all things–exists outside of the Greek alphabet, and every other alphabet ever conceived.
He gives John the same gospel message to share with the world as Jesus brought–living water [John 4:13-14]. Water is so essential to the creation. It was the foundation of the world on which God created everything [Genesis 1:2]. It flows through every living organism, and without it, nothing can live.
Jesus is that spring of eternal living water. His death paid the wages of our sins, while we can freely receive His gift of eternal life [Romans 6:23].
But if it’s that easy to be saved–and it is–then what does God mean that we must overcome? Just as He counseled Cain so long ago, we must overcome the crouching tiger of sin who is waiting around every corner to devour us [Genesis 4:7]. But not in the way that we must defeat sin of our own accord. We are not gladiators thrown into a ring of divine entertainment. Jesus overcame it all [John 16:33] and–by His Holy Spirit living in us–we can stand firm in the faith [Ephesians 6:10-18].
When we choose to will and to act in obedience with God’s commands, then, like Christ, we show ourselves to be overcomers of this world–we show ourselves to be conduits of living water. And we become children of God [Galatians 4:7] and co-heirs with Christ [Romans 8:17]. Our inheritance? Heaven for all eternity.
Are you thirsty?
“This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth–Gog and Magog–to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Revelation 20:5b-10
If there is a first resurrection, then there must also be a second resurrection. Later in this same chapter [Revelation 20:11-15] a second resurrection is described, though not so named. It occurs when the dead are raised at the white throne judgment. These dead will be judged for their deeds, and, their names not being found in the Book of Life, will be cast into the lake of burning sulfur with Satan for all eternity–the second death.
Chronologically, the millennial reign, first resurrection, Satan’s doom and second resurrection and death are difficult to pinpoint within the rest of the end time narrative. On one hand, the saints as judges comes after the antichrist [Revelation 13 & 16:2 & 10-11] because it includes those who resisted his reign [Revelation 20:4]. On the other hand, when Satan is released, he gathers the nations for battle [Revelation 21:8] just as is done for the battle of Armageddon [Revelation 16:14-16]. So is this a second battle after the millennial reign, or is scripture showing zoomed-in-and-out pieces of the end times timeline as it did with the Creation account?
More importantly are the key players–Gog and Magog. First mentioned in Ezekiel 38 & 39, Magog was a descendant of Japheth son of Noah and was prophesied to be joined by Cush and Put, descendants of Ham son of Noah. These two Gentile lineages here represent the wayward world, standing for one final rebellion against God.
In true Satan counterfeit fashion, the armies that battle God will number as many as the sand on the seashore–a number equivalent to the promised descendants of Abraham [Genesis 22:17; Hebrews 11:12]. They will march on God’s people–originally the line of Shem son of Noah, though now including all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ [John 3:16].
As the adversary encircles the holy city–counterfeit to the Israelites marching around Jericho to take hold of the Promised Land–fire falls and consumes them. A fire to which the generations offered their children in direct opposition to God [Leviticus 18:21 & 2 Kings 23:10, et al; Jeremiah 19:15]. A fire in which Christ stood with Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah [Daniel 3:25]. A fire that washes everyone who stands against God to their eternal demise with the father of deception, Satan.
Regardless of when the 1,000 years occurs and whether or not all believers will be resurrected to live through it, our citizenship is the most important thing. Is your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Have you accepted Jesus’ redemption of your heavenly citizenship?
“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. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.)” Revelation 20:4-5a
These judges’ thrones were prophesied since the time of Daniel [Daniel 7:9]. Though all authority in heaven and earth belongs to Jesus [Matthew 28:18], He gives the authority to sit in judgment over Satan, his antichrist and his unholy prophet, to those martyred for their faith [Revelation 6:9 & 20:4]. Like a jury for the Holy Judge, those who hold true to their faith even to the point of death, show themselves worthy to render this final verdict with Christ [Daniel 7:26-27].
They did not give in to the threat of physical death, because they understood the bigger picture of eternity.
The millennial reign of Christ mentioned here is the same duration of Satan’s prison sentence, locked in the Abyss, before his final doom in the lake of burning sulfur.
According to this passage, only martyrs get the blessing of being raised to rule and reign with Christ during this millennium. It seems to clearly state here that other believers who have died will remain dead until after this time has passed. However, scripture often indicates that when we die, we go straight to heaven–to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord [Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8]. So is this an inconsistency in scripture?
Not at all.
This seems to be an example where the English translation misconstrues the meaning of the original language. In the Greek, the conjunction kai—and–comes between the phrases describing the martyrs and those resisting the beast. Meaning that this is a list of more than one group of people, not a continuing description attributed to only the martyrs.
The church of Smyrna was encouraged to hold on–through testing and suffering, imprisonment, persecution and even martyrdom–and they would not be affected by this second death, the lake of fire [Revelation 2:10-11 & 20:14]. Not everyone would be martyred, but the victorious–everyone who held firm to their faith through whatever trials came their way–would be counted with those who gave their lives as the ultimate expression of faith.
Are you living victoriously by standing firm in your faith? Do you live with your eyes fixed on eternity?
“Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ‘ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’ At this I fell at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus, Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:9-10
Blessed–extremely joyful–are we faithful who will one day sit to banquet with Jesus in heaven [Luke 14:15]. Again, the angel commands John to write, for this message was to go out to all the churches in Asia Minor and, of course, in posterity to every church in the world ever. But he also emphasized the fact that this statement of blessing was an actual quote from the living God.
So either John took that to mean that God was standing in front of him in this angelic form, or John was supremely amazed to be in the presence of one who himself had been in the presence of God. In antiquity, this was believed an impossibility–to stand before God and live to tell about it. Either way, John gladly humbled himself before the angel. For in his day, it showed the utmost respect to fall at someone’s feet in awe.
Not to mention, the angel had just confirmed something incredible–prophecy, like God, was not dead. Many of John’s contemporaries believed it to be so. Since Jesus was the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies they knew so well, then surely there was no need for any further prophecy.
But the angel said, No way! Wait! Stop! I am not God that you should bow in worship to me. Don’t ever give God’s worship to anyone but Him alone.
Did you catch it? The spirit of God in His faithful? The righting of wrong?
Back in the beginning, Satan lied to everyone–people and angels alike–telling them they could be their own god [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. One-third of the angels in heaven followed after that belief and were cast out with him [Revelation 12:4]. If John had bowed to any of these fallen, they would have let him, because it would have been the fulfillment of the lie they had bought into. It would, to them, have been usurping God’s worship for themselves.
But God’s angels, the faithful in heaven [Acts10:25-26; Revelation 22:8-9]–just as the faithful people on earth ought [Matthew 6:10]–redirect all praise and worship to Him who alone is worthy, God. And we do so in the knowledge that the spirit of prophecy–that pneuma mentioned 160 times in the New Testament, occasionally rendered as wind, ghost or life breath, but most often as the Holy Spirit–that spirit lives in the testimony of Jesus for which many will be persecuted and even lay down their lives [Revelation 12:17].
Jesus’ messianic prophecy wasn’t finished at the cross. The truth of His revelation isn’t done until it is done. Until the faithful stand before the Father in heaven while Babylon lies in a smoking ruin. When sin has been removed and eternal life bestowed on all who believed. Then, and only then, will the prophecy cease [1 Corinthians 13:8-10]. Because then, and only then, will every bit of it be fulfilled.
Do you give God’s worship to anyone or anything other than Him? Do you allow others to praise you for the things that God has accomplished in and through you? Do you testify to Jesus until He comes?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as a queen; I am not a widow; and I will never mourn.’ Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord who judges her.” Revelation 18:4-8
God is calling–actively in the present tense and all throughout history–for the people that He created to see the truth of eternity and come out from the sins of the world.
As Christians, while we live among people who completely disregard God, we ourselves revere Him, glorifying and honoring Him with our whole lives. We live in this world, but we are not made of the same stuff as this world [John 17:16; Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15-17]. We are free from the constraints of the world’s social systems so that we might reach the world with the gospel [1 Corinthians 9:19-23].
By putting off our old sinful self and refusing to be influenced by the ideas of false religion, we save ourselves an eternity of hurt [Revelation 20:11-15. But we also save ourselves a multitude of hurts in this life. This doesn’t mean that our lives will be problem free. We will still have trouble [John 16:33]. Trouble because of those around us who choose to keep on sinning. Trouble because of our own wrestling with a sinful nature that wants to tear out our heart for Christ. Trouble because this world and these physical bodies are passing away [1 John 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:16]. But Jesus has overcome all of these troubles on our behalf [John 16:33]. He is preparing a place for us where sin will no longer have any hold or sway in our lives [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:4].
Meanwhile, the world’s systems multiply sin and boast about it. The world confidently masquerades as a figurehead queen, with no real authority. She declares that she has not been widowed, that her husband–Satan–has not died, and that she will never be in mourning for his passing. But she is wrong. Our Creator God always was, and is and always will be–He is eternal [Revelation 1:8]. Satan had a beginning, will have a time out and will meet an end [Hebrews 2:7; Revelation 20:2 & 7-10]. He is the antithesis of the eternal. He is temporal–time bound.
And just like Satan, false religion is temporal. She will meet the same end that it has brought upon the multitudes–plagues, death, mourning and famine–each judgments from the book of Revelation. She will be consumed eternally by fire, the end for everything and everyone that is not of God [Revelation 20:9-10 & 14-15]. We are not to sit back and let false religion get her hooks in the people around us. We are to give her grief by turning the hearts of her followers back to the One True God.
Because it is our choice. Yours and mine. And God does not desire that any should choose to go down with the burning ship of false religion–including atheism [2 Peter 3:9]. He desires that the whole world would know and live the truth. He desires that our hearts will rightly revere Him so that it might go well with all of us unto eternal life [Deuteronomy 5:29].
And He desires that, as Christians, we share His heart for a lost and dying world. You may live in this sinful world. But what are you made of?