Monday, May 29, 2006

Home at Last

We bring our reflections on the Book of Revelation to a close today. The end of the Book is but the beginning of eternal life. It is the end of all persecutions and sufferings, of all dragons and beasts, of all evil and death. It is the beginning of the joyous life of the redeemed faithful, of the saints and martyrs who persevered through trials and pain and temptation, who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and have emerged victorious and glorious forever, amen!

In the final apocalyptic battle, the unholy trinity of dragon, beast, and false prophet are hurled into the lake of fire, to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (20:10). Then comes the last judgment of all mankind. Note this: it is said repeatedly here that the dead are judged “by what they had done.” It is clear then that “faith alone” is insufficient for salvation. If you don’t do the will of God and put his word into practice, you must join the unholy trinity in their eternal fiery torment.

So, once the demons and all evildoers are disposed of, Heaven is opened to the chosen and faithful ones of God. St John saw the new Jerusalem coming down from Heaven, radiant with the glory of God. Next comes one of my favorite Scripture passages: “And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: ‘Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself with be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who sat upon the throne said: ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And he said to me: ‘It is done!’”(21:3-6). One day we will hear those words; one day all suffering and tears will be a distant memory; one day all things will be made new; one day we will dwell uninterruptedly with God and we will know only love and joy. I think it will take me the better part of eternity to let out one enormous sigh of relief, should I be fortunate enough to be found among the elect on that day.

For now, we have to make sure we are not among the polluted, faithless cowards, or the murderous, fornicating, lying idolaters (21:8), who never make it to the place of light and peace. We have to take up our crosses and follow the Lamb wherever He goes, even into the jaws of suffering and death, for the glorious heavenly Jerusalem awaits us on the other side.

The conclusion of the Book is a description of the heavenly City, all gold and jewels, all light and beauty, the river of life, the tree of life, the glory of God and of the Lamb. Nothing is worth missing out on this for all eternity. It doesn’t matter if you don’t envision Heaven as gold and jewels or trees and rivers. You don’t have to. This is a symbolic vision. When you get there you will swear the whole thing was designed just for you, for it will be so marvelous that it won’t even occur to you that there might be even one detail that could be improved. God has prepared so much for those who love Him, who are willing to endure to the end for his sake, for the sake of truth and righteousness and all that is holy and good. The righteous will indeed suffer, and holy things will be trampled by the ungodly, but there is a day of reckoning on the way, and there is a New Jerusalem waiting to be revealed to those who stand with the Lord, come what may. This Book ought to encourage us to turn our faces heavenward and await with joyful hope the Alpha and the Omega, who will make all things new.

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’… Come, Lord Jesus!” (22:17, 20).