Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29

OT: Zechariah 14:1-21

Here is what confused me about the final chapter of Zechariah: it seemed to talk about the end times, but then still held forth the possibility of rebellion and punishment.

Verses 6-11 definitely seem to talk about the end of time, what we call the full coming of God's kingdom. Starting in verse 7, it says,

"It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime--a day known to the Lord. When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name" (7-9).

Okay, that seems like "the end" to me: perpetual daylight, streams of living water, a full kingdom of God. Good stuff.

And in that light, as gruesome as verses 12-15 are, they do stay with the spirit of Revelation, which makes clear that those not belonging to God will be punished.

What gets me is verses 16-21, which say that any nation who does not then sacrifice to God would be punished. See, my conception of the kingdom of God is that when it comes in its full, that will all be over. You are either thrown into the lake of fire (to borrow from Revelation), or your name is written in the book and you're saved. And then it's time for heaven, right? What is this middle ground? I don't get it.

NT: Revelation 20:1-15

Meanwhile, in our alterna-version of the end of time, Satan is sealed into the Abyss for 1,000 years, during which time he is unable to deceive any of the nations (1-3). Then, all of the martyrs raise from the dead and reign with Christ for that same thousand years (at least, I assume it's the same time period). That's called the first resurrection (5).

After that thousand years, Satan is released and goes back to deceiving nations. He raises up an army, I guess an army of all the nations he has deceived. And then they march into battle against God. It's set up as this climatic scene, but fire from heaven immediately destroys them, so it's not much of a battle! Satan is thrown in the lake of burning sulfur where, along with the beast and the false prophet, he "will be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (10). Yikes.

Next, we apparently have the second resurrection, when everyone raises from the dead and is judged for their works. Verses 12-13 seem to picture big books that have everything that we've done in our lives. Yet, verse 15 pictures just one book in which a person's name is either there or not. Maybe the first set of books determine whose name is in the book of Life. Anyhow, death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire, as were anyone whose name was not in the book of life. So...Hades is hell...right? I guess at the end of time, those whose names are not in the book don't go to hell, but into the lake of fire?

Psalm 148: 1-14

A praise psalm that enjoins all of creation to praise the Lord.

Prov. 31:8-9

I love these verses and have thought of the first line often throughout my life:

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy."

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