In what sense are these biblical books literal interpretations of what was happening, since history is always an interpretation? History sometimes refers to a good story. In fact, our concept of what is history is always changing. History means something different to various diverse people. The idea of footnoting has become a general practice that was not known over a thousand years ago. Even in our own lifetime we can still argue about the events surrounding the deaths of President John Kennedy and the victims at the OJ Simpson house. Thus, it does not seem out of place to question events that supposedly took place either pre-historically or thousands of years ago. They did not have to happen exactly as detailed by the people writing hundreds of years after the events. There were no reporters with recording devices, I-phones, or even pencil and paper recording these events as they happened. They were stories that were repeated by story tellers. These mythical tales are not lies, but stories. Story telling is an important human activity and essential to the life of any society. Mythical stories awaken and maintain an experience of awe in the face of the ultimate religious mystery. Myths explain where the world came from and where it is going. Myth promotes virtues and a certain social ethical order. Myth gives individuals a role and an identity much like our modern psychology. Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) and Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) have shown that myths are not a negative but a positive part of life. If we did not have religious myths, people would create their own secular mythical stories about sports like baseball, football, and basketball, as well as politics. Thus, the question of historical reality and myth is a false problem. There is some historical reality in most myths. Most real historical things are perceived by people with assumptions or myths that already are part of their life. We often say that someone is making history, when they are just living their lives. The story is important, but it takes on more importance depending on the basic assumptions of the one who is telling or hearing the story. Do you like a good story?
Book of Revelation
Final blessing and warning (chapter 22)
The Lord said, “See! I am coming soon!” He was going to repay everyone according to their work. He said, “I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes!” They would have the right to the tree of life. They will enter the city by the gates. The outsiders are the dogs, the sorcerers, the fornicators, the murderers, the idolaters, and those who practice falsehood. “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and descendant of David, the bright morning start.” The Spirit and the bride said, “Come!” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes, take the water of life as a gift. Then he warned everyone who heard the words of this prophecy of this book. If anyone took away the words from this book of prophecy, God would take away that person’s share in the tree of life in the new holy city. The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely, I am coming soon! Amen! Come! Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints!” Have you been warned about the coming of Jesus Christ?
Epilogue (chapter 22)
John said that he saw and heard these things. He then fell down at the feet of the angel who had showed him all these things to worship him. However, the angel said, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with your brothers, the prophets, and those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” This angel told John not to seal up this book because the time was near. Let the evildoers still do evil. The filthy will be filthy. The righteous still do right things. The holy will still be holy. Do you continue to do good or evil?
The river of the waters of life (chapter 22)
Then another angel showed John the river of the waters of life, bright crystal flowing from the throne of God and the lamb through the middle of the city. On either side of the river was the tree of life with twelve kinds of fruit, one each month. The leaves of the tree were healing leaves. Nothing accursed would be there anymore. However, the throne of God and the lamb would be there. His servants would worship him. They would see his face because his name would be on their foreheads. There will be no more night because of the light of the Lord God. God will be their light. He will reign forever. The angel told John, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” The Lord said, “See! I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Do you live in the light of God?
Measuring the new holy city of Jerusalem (chapter 21)
This angel had a golden measuring rod to measure the city, its gates, and its walls. This was a square or cubed city so that every side was the same length and width. It was 12,000 stadia wide, long, and high, all equal. The angel also measured the wall that was 144 cubits, built of jasper. The city was pure gold, clear as glass. The twelve foundations of the wall were adorned with twelve jewels, jasper, sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst. The twelve gates were made of pearls. The streets were made of transparent pure gold. There was no temple in the new Jerusalem. The temple was the Lord God Almighty and the lamb. There was no need for a sun or moon to shine, since the glory of God and the lamp of the lamb was its light. All the nations would walk in its light. The kings of the earth would bring their glory to it. The gates would never be shut because there was no night there. People would bring the glory and honor of their nations to it. Nothing unclean nor false would enter it. Only those names that were written in the Book of Life would enter it. Is your name in the Book of Life?
The vision of the new Jerusalem (chapter 21)
One of the angels came to John and told him, “Come! I will show you the bride, the wife of the lamb.” In the spirit, this angel carried John away to a great high mountain. He showed him the holy city Jerusalem coming down from heaven with the glory of God. It was a very rare jewel, like a crystal-clear jasper. This city had a great high wall with twelve gates and twelve angels, one for each gate. The twelve gates had the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, with three gates in each direction, north, south, east, and west. The city wall had twelve foundations with the names of the twelve apostles of the lamb. Do you think that the number twelve is important?
The new heaven and the new earth (chapter 21)
John saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and earth had passed away. The sea was no more. Instead, John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. John then heard a voice from the throne saying, “See! The home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them. They will be his people. God himself will be with them.” He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, mourning, crying, and pain. The first things have passed away. God said from his throne, “See! I am making all things new! Write this down! These words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said, “It is done! I am the alpha and the omega! I am the beginning and the end!” He was going to give water from the spring of the waters of life to those who were thirsty. Those who prevailed would inherit these things. “I will be their God. They will be my children.” On the other hand, the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all the liars will burn in the lake of fire and sulfur, the second death. Does God make new things?
The dead were judged (chapter 20)
Then John saw the great one sitting on the great white throne. The earth and heaven fled from his presence, but there was no place for them. John saw the dead, both great and small, standing before the throne. The books were opened, including the Book of Life, so that the dead were judged according to what was in these books. The sea gave up its dead. Death and Hades give up their dead. They were all judged according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were also thrown into the lake of fire. This was called the second death, the fiery lake. Anyone who was not found in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. Is your name in the Book of Life?
Satan’s doom (chapter 20)
When the thousand years were completed, Satan would be released from prison. Once again, he would come to deceive the nations, like Gog and Magog, to gather people for the battle. They would be as numerous as the sands of the sea. They would march forward on the earth, surrounding the camp of the saints and the beloved city. Then fire will come down from heaven and consume them. The devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the eternal lake of fire and sulfur with the beast and the false prophet. This time, they were tormented day and night eternally, not just for a thousand years. Have you ever seen a fiery lake?
The Christians reigned for a thousand years (chapter 20)
John then saw people seated on thrones with authority to judge. John also saw the ones who were beheaded that had given testimony to Jesus and the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image. They did not have the mark of the beast on their foreheads or hands. Instead, they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years had ended. This was the first resurrection, so that they were blessed and holy. Thus, the second death had no power over them, because they were the priests of God and Christ. They would reign with God and Christ for a thousand years. Would you like to be charge for a thousand years?