A rancher had to go on a long journey. During his absence, he left his best sheepdog in charge. The master's business kept him away for many months. During that time, many sheep and cattle were born. Over a year passed and still the master did not return. The sheepdog told all the young animals about the master, and some waited eagerly for his return. One bull, however, would not believe it. "I am the strongest." he would say. "I deserve to be in charge. No one can be master of me. Therefore, the master you speak of does not exist." This bull caused a great deal of trouble. He set up residence in the house, bringing a number of the more rebelious animals with him. The dog was helpless to correct the situation. Then one day, the master finally returned. "Surely the bull will obey now that he can see the master is real!" thought the dog. But when the two came face to face, the bill lowered his horns and charged. "I am the master!" bellowed the bull. "You will never rule over me!" The rancher pulled a pistol from his belt and shot the bull between the eyes, killing him.
Well, here we are, almost at the end of the river of history. This is the true golden age. Jesus is emperor of the world, and He's doing a mighty fine job. There is no sickness. There is no poverty. Old age is a thing of the past. When someone dies at a mere hundred years old, he's thought to be extremely ill-fated. It's just not normal for someone to go that young. People are traveling from Heaven to Earth regularly. Last week, we heard about a time which will be Hell on Earth. This will be Heaven on Earth. Jesus will rule. He will rule the world and bring everything into order. And above the earth, the gleaming city of New Jerusalem wil be the center of the empire.
Now we do not have all of the information about this time right here in the book of Revelation where you'd expect to find it. Much of the information is scattered about in the old Testament. Huge chunks can be found in places like Isaiah and Ezekiel.
This period of history will last a thousand years. Those saints who either died or were raptured will be restored to life, and will be able to walk about on the Earth freely. However, they will not be part of the citizens of the Earth. That honor goes to those who accepted Christ during the tribulation. These will be the first generation of the new human race. When they die, they will not be restored until the end of the thousand years. However, death will become very rare. A person will still be considered a child when he hits a hundred.
Now the only people left in the world are Christians, and except for the huge task of cleanup in the initial few years, it's flippin' awesome! The oceans, except for a few special wildlife preserves, become fresh water. Everything is clean. The air is clean, the water is clean, even the dirt is clean! Bowling scores are way up, minigolf scores are way down. ...and we have more excellent waterslides than any other planet. Sound familiar? I took that from the introduction to Bill and Ted's excellent adventure. In that movie, Rufus describes the ideal future he comes from. It's a future which people have dreamed about and drooled over for centuries.
Just think for a moment about what is involved in creating this world. The tribulation massively shook planet Earth. There is no green grass. The air and the ocean are poisonous. The oxygen supply is severely depleted. Disease is rampant and famine abounds. To bring about this utopian empire, a major miracle such as has not been seen since the creation of the world has to happen. It is God himself who sets everything to right, not the efforts of man.
On top of that, this is the Holy Spirit's time to shine. There isn't a church any more, because none is needed. The knowledge of God flows out of Israel like water and the Spirit writes His law directly on people's hearts.
You'd think everyone would be happy and filled with love for God and one another, right? I'd like to imagine so. And yet with the world perfectly in balance, Christians everywhere, the dead raised to life, ascending to and descending from Heaven, Jesus on the throne and the Holy Spirit bringing enlightenment like never before, some people still aren't happy. It seems that as long as there are people being born, there will be people choosing the path of darkness. And why? That's a darned good question.
I was just talking with a friend I met on YouTube the other day about why people don't believe in God. Logic demands it. All the evidence leads us to the inescapable conclusion that God is real. Why would anyone refuse to believe?
I think the biggest reason people refuse to believe in God is because of the implications of His existence. If there is no God, there is no afterlife, and justice is only as reliable as the strong are willing to make it. You can do whatever you want and as long as you don't get caught, you never have to worry about the consequences. You want to do drugs? Fine. Sleep with your sister-in-law? Just don't let anyone find out. Steal? Just be sneaky. Plug somebody? If the cops don't get you, it's all good. Of course, when you've got God right there on Earth, His existence is difficult to refute.
In this case, freedom from consequence ceases to be an issue and the real issue becomes control. Many people will refuse to accept any power higher than themselves because they want control. This is why Russia and China have tried for many decades to crush the true church and allow only their own to exist. In their minds, they control the church, therefore they control God. As far they are concerned, there can be no higher authority than the state. Rubbish, naturally.
For some, it's a matter of pride. I confess I cannot understand this. Is it better to be the son of a chimp than created by a master craftsman? Being God's creature is something to be proud of. Yet for some people, their pride simply will not let them bow to God. To them, I say that their pride is the first thing that needs to go. If pride is not pushing you to better and better things, if it is debasing you and causing you to suffer, it is not fulfilling its function and is worthless. You can't eat pride. It won't keep the rain off. You can't sleep on it, bathe in it, sell it, charge admission for it or even give it away. If pride is not driving you toward life and greatness, it has no value whatsoever and should be discarded. Very few understand this.
For others, it is a matter of outright hate. A lack of understanding causes people to resent God because of some small circumstance. Perhaps they didn't get some toy they wanted for Christmas. Perhaps they have become lame. Perhaps a loved one has died. some of these things are big to us, but to God, who sees the grand design, they are small. The question "why do bad things happen to good people?" is one that has plagued mankind for millenia. On the broad scale, I can answer that question and give you the many reasons. On an individual scale, I have no clue. But as one lyricist put it...
"Now I don't understand all the mysteries of the master plan, but I'm sure the Master does, so that's okay."
We can trust God to work all things together, even the bad, for the good of His people. Romans 8:28 spells that out very clearly. For some people, that's not good enough.
At the end of the thousand years, Satan is set loose from his prison. He quickly whips the world into a frenzy, preying on their pride, their lust for control, their thirst for power, and causing them to march together on Israel.
This is the last battle. Now Ragnarok begins. The nonchristians from every corner of the globe will come, apparently by way of Moscow (Magog) and will surround Jerusalem. They are far too many to count, being like the sand of the seashore. The battle will be incredibly short. God destroys the rebellion with a mighty blast of fire from Heaven.
And now, ladies and gentlecreatures, without further ado, I give you the end of the universe.
The battle of Ragnarok is the final signpost on this river. The world has run its course and now, it is destroyed by fire. We don't know exactly how it happens. My theory is that the last Christians are taken up to New Jerusalem and the blast of fire which consumes the rebellion also consumes the planet. But it is not just the Earth which is destroyed. It's everything, the heavens included.
The river of history has just left a great lake via a violent set of rapids. Now, we have reached its mouth. The river is at an end as it flows into the open sea.
Following the end of the world , the souls of the damned are placed into Hell, which is then locked tight and only thought about again in terms of the old universe, if at all. Then creation begins anew. There is a new Earth and new heavens. Interestingly, this new Earth has no oceans. I'm sure it will have plenty of rivers and lakes, though. It will be a new, imperishable Earth. It will be as the original Earth was meant to be, but this time, there will be no death, because there will be no fall. All people have now been translated into their final state. There will be no more birth, and thus, no more death. Sin will become a foreign idea. With no sin, no demons and no death, peace will reign forever. New Jerusalem will descend and rest directly upon the Earth, eliminating the breach between Earth and Heaven forever, as it is no longer needed.
So now what?
Now God's plan is accomplished. Sin and death have been conquored and God has His special race that He wanted since the beginning of time. Billions of people who love Him, living in peace and harmony with one another and with the universe. We will be free to do as we wish, and I know that there will be a lot going on. There will be people making things, creating art, composing music, exploring the new universe, making up new games and sports, inventing, writing, and allowing their unfettered minds, now unhindered by the limitations of time, enemies, poverty or captivity, to soar. But the biggest challenge of all is to learn everything there is to know about our infinite God, a challenge which will never end.
Thank you for taking this trip down the river of history with me. It has been a fascinating ride, sometimes very bumpy, but always profitable. There were a few times I didn't think we'd make it, but here we are. Now then... who here has been following this series since we began last April? I have rewards for you. (gives each one a royal blue scarf, a plaque and a button which says "Educated Immortal".)
God bless you.
Today's reading: Revelation 20:1-21:4
20:1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.
2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison
8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth--Gog and Magog--to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.
9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.
13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.
14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
15 If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."