V 1-10 Heaven rejoices at the destruction of Babylon and judgement of the harlot. We get, literally, the Hallelujah Chorus. Handel used 2 verses (6 and 16) from this chapter, along with Rev 11:15, for this Chorus. Now that I know the context of the verses, I cringe to listen to it.
In v 4, the 24 ‘elders’ reappear, along with the 4 beasts. These 24 elders are interpreted by some apologists as the 12 disciples and 12 OT prophets. Good luck with that – there are more than 12 of each mentioned in the bible; guess believers will have to pick and choose. Then we get a vast crowd celebrating the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. The lamb is of course Jesus, and his ‘bride’ is the church (see Ephesians 5:25-32). A bit of a stretch if you ask me, but the people who believe this didn’t ask me.
V 11-16 tell of the triumphal entourage of redeemed saints. Jesus rides in on a white horse – How hackneyed is that?
He’s crowned with many crowns and wearing a robe dipped in blood. And so much for the image of peace – he’s carrying a sword and accompanied by an army of True Christians TM. We used to sing a hymn at my church with the first line ‘Crown him with many crowns, the lamb upon the throne’. I never understood the context of the words until now. Disgusting…. but I’d bet no one else in the congregation understood them, either. Anglicans just sing and recite according to tradition.
The last few verses are ugly. It’s a face-off between Jesus and his army of believers vs the Beast and his army of worldly kings and false prophets. The sadistic, blood-thirsty angels just can’t wait to watch the vultures feasting on the losers. The entire world army is killed by Jesus’ sword, and the beast is tossed into the lake of fire and brimstone (sulphur). Hallelujah! Let’s celebrate death and destruction, blood and gore.
For the second time, god commits genocide and trashes the human beings that he created. Obviously he didn’t learn after Noah, because he screwed up again.
I thought we were done with the blood and gore, but apparently not. Now an angel descends from heaven and locks the dragon/serpent/Satan in the bottomless pit for 1000 years (Millennium). Apologists believe that this is the same serpent that tempted Eve.
V 4-6 All the loyalists who martyred themselves for Jesus will be resurrected and will rule with him for the 1000 year term. These supposedly include the OT prophets, the apostles and disciples of the early church, and the Tribulation saints. Some apologists believe in a literal 1000 years, while others don’t. The rest of the dead (unbelievers) will stay dead during that 1000 years, then (spoiler!) they will be resurrected also, but only long enough to be punished and re-killed. (Is re-killed even a word?)
V 7-10 Satan will be released from prison at the end of the 1000 years, and he will gather up supporters from all 4 corners of the (square) earth, from nations referred to as Gog and Magog, to form an army. The army encircles the ‘beloved city’ (presumably Jerusalem). But god sends down fire from heaven and consumes them. You might wonder where these armies come from, since prior to the Millennium, all the non-believers were dead. Apologists have an answer for that:
“All those who initially went into the kingdom were without doubt redeemed sinners who had turned to Christ in faith. The bad news is that they still will possess a sinful human nature. That sinful nature is passed on to their children, grandchildren, etc. Thus each generation born in the millennium will have need for salvation. Many will come to salvation but amazingly despite the most moral society the world will ever know, a great number will love their sin and reject Him. When Satan is loosed, he provides the leadership needed to bring the latent sin and rebellion to the surface of those unrepentant sinners.”
And how about those evil nations – Gog and Magog? We talked about them back in Ezekiel 38 and 39, but the context was different. Here is the map I shared back then, of the modern states that fundamentalists frequently associate with these two evil powers. I’m sure you can guess some of the countries and current world leaders who make the list. Then Satan/devil/serpent/whatever-it-is joins the beast and the false prophet in the lake of burning sulphur to enjoy eternal torment from our loving god.
V 11-15 The Final Judgement (are we finally done with the blood and gore?) The dead non-believers who weren’t included in the first resurrection in v 4-5 (including bodies dredged up from old graves and from the sea – ick) are resurrected to stand before god’s white throne, where they are judged according to their works as recorded in the Book of Life.
Well, I guess that settles the ‘faith vs works’ argument once and for all, doesn’t it? (Paul was wrong.) And then they are all re-killed by being tossed into the lake of fire. That lake must be a crowded place – bet there’s a helluva party going on.
True believers TM make no excuses for these passages, nor attempt to tone down the cruelty.
Here is what my fundie apologist site had to say
“Those who didn’t accept Jesus will have to stand or fall on their deeds… Those who die in their sins in this world will die a second death in eternity. They will be sentenced to the lake of fire forever at the great White Throne of Judgment. Whether this fire is symbolic, the reality it represents will be even more horrifying and painful. The bible defines hell as a place of total darkness, which not only separates the unbelievers from the light, but from each other as well. What is written in these last two verses should drive each of us to continue to spread the gospel as long as there is breath in your body. I cannot bear to think of anyone I know going to this terrible place of torment.”
Horrifying, but it provides me with a somewhat better understanding of what makes fundies tick. Wanna know more about this stuff? There’s an unbelievable amount of $ and time going into marketing fear and paranoia.