The End of the Story (Revelation 20:7-15)

            As a child, I loved playing video games. I was shy and reserved throughout my elementary years and video games provided an outlet. Like many young boys in my generation, the Legend of Zelda became a staple for my afterschool activities. The story of Zelda begins this way,

"A long, long time ago the World was in an age of Chaos. In the midst of this chaos, in a little kingdom in the land of Hyrule, a legend was being handed down from generation to generation, the legend of the 'Triforce'; golden triangles possessing mystical powers. One day, an evil army attacked this peaceful little kingdom and stole the Triforce of Power. This army was led by Ganon, the powerful Prince of Darkness who sought to plunge the World into fear and darkness under his rule.[1]

Ganon captures Princess Zelda and it is up to young warrior named Link to find the pieces of the golden triangle to finally defeat the Prince of Darkness. It took months to get to the final battle against Ganon. After Ganon is defeated, Princess Zelda says to the Hero of Hyrule, “Finally peace returns to Hyrule. This ends the story.”

            As a 12 year old, there is much satisfaction in completing the final battle. It was an anti-climactic victory since the only thing that changed was I received more time back into my afternoons. Games like the Legend of Zelda, tell a familiar story. It is really a mere reflection of our great story. The Legend of Zelda’s final words, “Finally, Peace Returns. This ends the story,” foreshadows the end of all human history. The end of a video game was anti-climactic, but at the end of history when the Prince of Darkness is defeated, and peace returns to the earth will be anything but anti-climactic.

            There is a war raging against God and his saints. The Devil and his demonic army have plunged this world into fear and darkness, but there is coming day when the King of Glory will ultimately and decisively win the final battle. Video games and movies and books are all just previews. They provide windows into the greater reality of God’s battle against evil. Every similar story should remind us and prepare us for the Great story of God’s battle against Evil.

The Final Battle

            The Apostle John gets a window into heaven to see this final battle or more like the final victory since it does not seem like very much of a battle. Revelation 20:7-10,

7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

As I mentioned previously, I believe the thousand years represents the church age. Satan is bound now and cannot deceive all the nations of the earth. The gospel will go forth and rescue people from every tribe, tongue and people and nation. After all nations have heard and received the gospel, the end will come.

Satan will be released from his prison and gather the nations to himself to wage one last final battle against God and his people. Many scholars believe Revelation 20:7-10 mirrors Ezekiel 38-39 which also references Gog and Magog. Gog and Magog do not represent any one nation but all the nations that stand in rebellion against God. Gog and Magog are defeated in Ezekiel 38-39 by the decisive and swift judgment of the Lord, Ezekiel 38:22-23,

With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgement with him (Gog), and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur. So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.

Similarly, throughout the Bible, God acts to show that he is the Lord, and no one can stand against him.

            Satan leads this last battle himself against the people of God. The battle is ended in one verse, “And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them.” It is not the saints who win the battle, but God sends his fire from above. The Lord fights the battle for his people. The language of the camp of the saints refers to the days of the wilderness and tabernacle when the people had to remain ritually clean in the camp because of the presence of God. Deuteronomy 23:14, “Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, your camp must be holy.” The camp represents those who are holy unto the Lord who have not defiled themselves with the beast or who wore his mark. They are believers in Jesus Christ.

The saints were defined by the name of the city of God in the letter to the church of Philadelphia, Revelation 3:12, “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” The saints are marked as the new Jerusalem which comes down from heaven. True Israel, ethnic Jews and Gentiles who follow Jesus, will be surrounded by the enemy of God and quickly and decisively be defeated.

The Devil meets the same end as the false prophet and the beast; he is cast into the lake of fire and sulfur. He is not destroyed as he ceases to exist, but he is perpetually destroyed as he is tormented day and night forever and ever. The one who brought ruin and death into the world will experience an eternal death or will be dying forever and ever. This is a fitting end to the one who caused so much death and destruction on earth.

Beloved, do not stand with the Devil and his ways. One of the questions we ask during baptisms is, “Do you renounce Satan and all his ways?” Do not cozy up to the Devil or his ways. His end is sure. He will perish eternally. He is powerful on earth, but one day his reign will end. He knows his time is short, so he makes war against the saints. Do not listen to his lies. Do not fall victim to his schemes. He is out to kill and destroy and one day he will answer for it forever.

The Final Throne

            He will answer for it because of the One who is seated on the throne. Revelation 20:11, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.” It is unclear if the one on the throne is God the Father or God the Son. It does not truly matter for as John as said previously, the Father and the Son are one. At the end of history, there is only one on the Throne.

            The earth and sky flee from his presence. The holy and pure throne of God drives away anything evil and impure from his presence. The Bible  pictures the first earth and heavens being burned up with fire. The burning may be more of a purifying or refining, either way, all that is impure and unholy will not last. The heavens and the earth will be renewed in the presence of a holy God.

            The white throne judgment of God should remind us that there can be only one on the throne. One of the common questions used by Campus Crusade for Christ that I heard in college was, “What is on the throne of your heart?” What governs or directs your life? Another way to get to the root of the question, “Do you have any idols?” John Calvin says that the human heart is an idol factory. We constantly are driven to live by and according to the things of this world rather than the things of God. Idols are usually not bad things in themselves but when they become ultimate determining things that usurp God’s control in your life. The core idols of the human heart are control, approval, power and comfort. Are you governed by any of these? As one author writes,

If your offer yourself as a slave [or governed] to approval, your life will be plagued by constant self-pity, envy, hurt feelings, and inadequacy. If you are a slave to comfort, you won’t be able to say “no” to the pleasures of food, or sex, or drugs, or pornography. If you are enslaved to power, you’ll become domineering, harsh, even abusive. If you are enslaved to control, you’ll worry all the time; you’ll lose your temper a lot; or you’ll manipulate others to get your way.[2]

Idols never pay off. Do not bow to idols, but the Lord. There is only one on the throne. The great white throne in heaven sits our Master and Creator. The great white throne sits the Lover of our Souls and the only One who came give us joy forever more. Sin leads to death. It may start with joy, but it ends in disaster. Whenever you see idols in your heart, repent. Turn from allowing anything in your life to control or dominate you. As Paul says, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” Do not be dominated by anything except by the one seated on the throne.

The Final Judgement

            If the throne image does not remind us to run from our idols and sin, then what happens from the throne should. Revelation 20:12-13,

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.

Everyone will give an account to God. God keeps accurate records. His accounting ledger is perfect. He records everything you have ever done, both good and bad, and will hold you accountable for it all.

            Every judgment of God will be perfectly accurate. Everyone will get what they deserve. Justice will happen. Every deed good or bad will be paid for with the perfect justice of God. There will be no complaints. Everyone will get what is coming to them. How encouraging is this for those of you who have been wronged? God is your avenger. He will defend you. As the martyrs who call out for vindication for their killers, the abused call out for justice against their abusers, God hears their cries and will answer them. There is no need to worry if God will execute justice. It is written into the end of the story. Justice will happen.

            Although this thought should comfort those who have been wronged, it should also create fear for those who have wronged others. Every deed. Every thought. All will be judged. All will be disclosed at the of history. God will deal with sin. If you are not a follower of Christ, I wonder if you have every thought of judgment. Do you think that God will overlook your wrong because of the good you have done? Do you think God will ignore your mistakes? Maybe you hope that he wont make a big deal of what you have done wrong because it is not as bad as the things others have done. Have you considered the possibility of God holding you accountable for your sin? Have you thought about God making you pay for what you have done wrong? The records are accurate; nothing will be hidden. What will your hope be in that moment when you stand before the holy, awesome, great white throne?

            Friend, Christians are no different than you. We know we have sinned. We know we have wronged a holy God. The only difference is instead of waiting for God to punish us, we have turned to Jesus Christ who took our punishment for us. Jesus Christ came to the world to save sinners. It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. The Bible says all are sick and all need a doctor. Jesus lived a righteous life. He committed no sin. He did nothing wrong. His record was perfect. And he who knew no sin, willingly laid down his life as a ransom. He chose to die to save sinners. He saved sinners by paying for their sin. Christians are not saved by what they have done, but what Christ as done for them. We believe that Jesus died for our sake. The righteous one died for the unrighteous, so we could stand before the throne of God. Our hope is not in ourselves, but the one stands before us.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

 

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

 

Behold Him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I am
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!
With Christ my Savior and my God!

 

The Christian hope is that we have an advocate before the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. His blood has paid for all our sin. For every deed. For every thought. It is only through his blood that we live. If you are not a follower of Christ, I plead with you to allow Jesus to plead for you before the throne. Repent of your sin and put your hope in Christ.

            Beloved, if all this true. If Jesus died for us, should we not live for him. Every time we recount the gospel, we should be driven to gratitude and holy living. We should give our lives to follow more vigorously and passionately for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. We want to bring pleasure to God for our lives. We want to offer a pleasing aroma to him. We want to be a light to the world, so people may see our good deeds and glory to our father who is in heaven. We should desire to live for the Lord because the stakes are so incredibly high.

The Final Enemy

            Christian, these last two verses should give us hope and urgency to live for Jesus Christ. Non-Christian, these last two verses should warn you of what is to come. Revelation 20:14-15, “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Death is swallowed up in victory. The Lord will destroy Death and Hades in the lake of fire. It will be no longer be able to touch the saints. God’s people will no longer face the threat of death but will live with the Lord forever and ever and ever. All the death we see so often in our day, will no longer affect us. On that day, final victory will come down from heaven. God will be our God and we will be his people forever more. What a powerful promise?

            So many Christians do not understand the glory of heaven. Heaven will be so glorious, so perfect, so pristine, so pure, so full of the Lord’s presence that words are not adequate to describe all that awaits the saints. If there is so much that awaits, “why do we fool around with lesser things now?” Beloved, do not fall under sin’s false promises. Its goal is to deceive you and rob your joy. Sin deceives. There is this scene in the Hobbit where Bilbo Baggins and his companions walk into an enchanted forest. The further they walk in the more disoriented them become. The forest affects their senses and reason. It is only when Bilbo puts his head above the forest when that he is able to think clearly. This is the effect of sin in our lives. The more we walk in sin and away from the Lord we become more disoriented and lose our senses and reason. We must lift our heads above the fog of sin that confuses us and think of what awaits us. Beloved, we must fight sin at all costs for our sake and the sake of those we love. Sin is deceptive, and we must avoid he subtle temptation.

            There are two books before the throne. The book of our deeds and the book of life. Our names are written in the book of life when we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. This should be where we place our ultimate joy. After the disciples came back from their mission, they were rejoicing in how God used them, but Jesus said to them, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread serpents and scorpions, and over the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do no rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:19-20) Our greatest joy should be in the gospel of the Lord Christ. Jesus Saves. Jesus Saves. This should be our supreme joy, but also our supreme motivation.

            Beloved, if anyone’s name is not found in the book of life, they are thrown into the lake of fire along with the devil to be tormented forever. God has made us a kingdom and priests to represent him on earth to herald the hope of the gospel. Heaven and hell are very real. The lake of fire is a real, and terrifying place. We must share the hope of Christ with people. We must tell them of the danger that is to come. Only Jesus delivers from the wrath to come. We need a Savior. We need a sacrifice to pay for our sins. Jesus did not only die for us but for the sins of the whole world. We must rescue the perishing. We must share the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If not us then who? Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ!! How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless thy are sent?...Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

            Do you believe that? Do you believe that faith comes from hearing? Do you believe that when we share the gospel of Christ he will give faith and belief to the lost? We must live with a greater sense of urgency.

            Friend, if you do not know Christ, understand that you will one day answer for your sin. You will rightly pay for what you have done wrong. Jesus came to save. You can’t save yourself. You can’t pay for your own sins. You need a substitute. Jesus offers that to you. He died so you may live. Oh, friend, accept the sacrifice of Jesus on your behalf.

            Beloved, Revelation 21:27, “nothing unclean will enter temple, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” The book of life belongs to the Lamb who was slain. Jesus ransomed people for God from every tribe and people and language and nation. Are you in that number? Is your name in the book of life?

            Beloved let us never tire of beholding the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Let us not never tire of it, but oh, let us share it to all who will listen. Salvation belong to the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb who was slain.

 

 

[1] https://zelda.gamepedia.com/The_Legend_of_Zelda_(Game) accessed 5.6.2018

[2] https://jdgreear.com/blog/3-responses-when-an-idol-has-taken-the-throne/ accessed 5.6.2018