Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

A Disturbing End


            And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 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. 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, 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.
            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. 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. 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.
(Revelation 20:7-15 ESV)

These are two powerfully disturbing, jarring paragraphs.  In the first paragraph it clearly says that the devil and the false prophet will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  That means unrelenting torture.  A fitting end, I suppose one could say a non-end, for one Jesus described as “The Father of Lies” and his chief lieutenant. 

The second paragraph is disturbing for two reasons.  The first is that it talks about a second death when some group of people are transferred from the dominion of Death and Hades (Hell?  I thought they already were in Hell) to the lake of fire, presumably for final destruction.  That’s the fate that awaits all whose names are not found in the book of life.   So we are left to infer either that these unfortunate souls will suffer moment-by-moment torment for all eternity, which itself isn’t a measure of time, or that they will be utterly destroyed along with the country of their citizenship – Death and Hades.

I don't ever want to be found toying with Scripture.  I also don't ever want to avoid a passage just because it is hard to hear.  But I believe that God is holy, just, righteous, loving, and patient.   If eternity isn’t a measure of time, then when God destroys “day and night” by setting all things right before himself, who has no beginning or end, then those whose names are in the Book of Life will experience unchanging life, a concept we who age have trouble grasping.  Those who are excluded will experience unending annihilation, whatever that means.  I wouldn’t want to be one of them.

There is comfort these paragraphs.  Sandwiched in amongst all this destruction is “the camp of the saints.”  Whatever else you believe about the end of the World, one thing is clear: God protects the camp of the saints, even to the point of raining fire down on the enemies of his beloved.  Their names are found in the book of life, and they will eternally rejoice before the Throne, when all their struggles, all their persecutions are ended.  And he shall reign forever and ever.  Hallelujah! 

Jon

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