Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 29 2013 - Revelation 20:1-15 – Death thou shalt die

“Death be not proud…
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more: 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. 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. Some are slaughtered in war; some die from painful diseases; some die of hunger and of thirst; some die in tragedy and disaster. And if you manage to avoid all of these things and live on to a ripe old age, still you will die. It is one of the few certainties in life. 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 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, strengthened in the truths of the gospel and faithful to a victorious Saviour. Always joyful and full of hope, keep on working for the coming of the kingdom. The kingdom will come. It is not death but the risen Christ who will have 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 and gladly 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. Have mercy upon this world despoiled by death and help us to hold out before it the word and promise of life.

Peter Misselbrook