Mar 27 2012 - E100.99b – Revelation 20, Death, thou shalt die.
Revelation 20 is the only passage in the Bible that speaks about the "millennium". This admittedly difficult passage in a difficult book has become the ground of much controversy among Christians. It is not my intention to comment on these controversies here (though I have expressed my views on the subject in a sermon published on my website). Here, I want rather to pick up a picture from the end of the chapter.
In 19:19-20 we read of the beast and the false prophet being thrown into a fiery lake of burning sulphur. The picture, taken from the bowl of a volcano, is used here as a picture of complete and utter destruction. Now in 20:14 we read, "Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire." Death and the place of the dead are utterly destroyed; they have no further place in God's creation.
Death was defeated through Jesus resurrection from the dead yet it continues to ravage our world and to affect believers and unbelievers alike. But the day is coming when death will not only be defeated, it will be destroyed – it will be no more; it shall die.
The music of The Messiah has run through my mind as I have read many sections of the book of Revelation. Let me close with by quoting another passage that is forever associated with Handel's great work:
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:51-58)
This also is the message of Revelation. Stand firm. Keep on working for the coming of the kingdom. The kingdom will come. The risen Christ, not death, has the last word.
Lord Jesus Christ, we give you thanks and praise that you have broken the power of death and shall destroy it utterly at your coming. Help us always to give ourselves fully to the work of your kingdom, knowing that our labour is not in vain, for you are risen and alive and you are Lord over all creation.