By David Baumann
A Reading from Revelation 20:11-21:8
11 Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. 13And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; 15and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.”
The battle is over; it remains only to separate the faithful from the vanquished ungodly. All the dead rise and stand before the throne of God to be judged. He is the absolute King, whose judgments are wholly just and utterly final. Yet the judgment is only the revelation of the tally of the decisions we have made and which prove what our heart’s desire truly is. Those whose desires are perverted and who reject Christ are flung into the lake of fire; Death itself and its spiritual counterpart — Hades — are also flung into the lake of fire.
And then the New Jerusalem — the true Kingdom of Heaven in all its fullness. The earth and heaven reappear, but only as God would have them be: fresh, bright, holy, faithful, and intimately indwelt by God for all eternity. All things which find their origin in evil have passed utterly away. The Lord then declares, as of primary importance, that all who truly desired his Kingdom shall have it, but no one whose life has stood in opposition to it shall partake of it.
My spiritual director mused that perhaps at the moment we die, we may be shown the effects of every decision we have made in our lifetimes, for good or for ill, and how those decisions affected other people. Who could receive such a revelation? Surely if this happened we would find that we had done far more good more effectively than we could ever have estimated; but it is also true that we would learn of the damage and hurt we had brought onto other people beyond our comprehension. Our lives are a mixture of both. The question is: what will our heart’s desire make us, at the end? One of the faithful, or one of the ungodly?
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of Etche (Nigeria) and the Rt. Rev. Precious Nwala
Diocese of Etsako (Nigeria) and the Rt. Rev. Jacob Bada
Diocese of Louisiana and the Rt. Rev. Morris Thompson