That’s quite a headline! Satan’s Defeat! Hallelujah! Amen! We can all rejoice and be glad. But there are some challenging parts to today’s reading we should not overlook. First of all, Satan is set free from his 1000 year captivity (or however long this represents). There was no prison reform for Satan. In fact, if I were to guess, he came out stronger, angrier, and craftier than ever.
After all of that, we have these words of comfort. “Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Such a fate, it couldn’t have happened to a “nicer” bunch! Forever banished. It makes you wonder why there was the 1000-year imprisonment in the first place. Again, time and space is not literal. God had his reasons.
So that’s what happens to Satan. It’s a happily ever after for those saints of God. What about all the others who have died but who weren’t martyrs for their faith and some who didn’t believe at all? Our last reading told of how those martyred for their faith would reign with Jesus during the time of Satan’s imprisonment. What a glorious reward for the horrific way their life on earth ended. Everyone else was apparently in a holding pattern waiting for this final judgment.
I’ve wrestled with this. My husband David can attest that my brain has gone all over the place trying to understand. I have, like many before me, questioned the book of life and whether my name is in it. What about people whose names aren’t in it – are they doomed to be evil and eternally separated from God? “And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Is there a way they can get “penciled in” since we know this book has been around since the dawn of time?
What about all this first death and second death stuff? As I see it, we all die. We all experience the first death. For those of us who have been faithful, we can expect judgment but to move on to live eternally with those who have been martyred. Our names must surely be in the Book of Life. For those who have chosen evil and rejected God, they will die a second time and be forever separated from God in that lake of fire with Satan and his cohorts. The second death is final and ugly. Fear of this destiny should be a wake up call to those far from God who still have time to repent.
We can go down many bunny trails trying to figure it out. I certainly have. I love this quote from Bruce M. Metzger, “But the consultation of the book of life shows that our eternal destiny is determined by God’s decision, by God’s grace, and by God’s amazing goodness.” Period. In other words, it’s all up to God. To add to this, Craig R. Koester says, “Trust that God wants you to put this faith into practice – then leave matters concerning the final judgment in God’s hands.”
The Book of Revelation is given to us to encourage faithfulness not fear. We need to realize that John is not saying we are judged by our works. We know that to be true from other places in Scripture, too. One of my favorites is Ephesians 2:8, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”
Take some time today to just be still in God’s presence. How can you say thanks to him for all he has done and is doing for you?
Let’s pray. Lord, help me from asking all the “what-if” questions and worrying about my salvation and that of my loved ones. You are full of grace and mercy. Our lives are held securely in your hands. Continue to use me and guide me to the be the best me I can be. Let me shine your light for the world to see! In Jesus’ name. Amen.