Monthly Archives: August 2018


Since we know nothing about the precise nature of angelic or heavenly beings we can’t say how much or how little power they have by nature, that is, simply because they are angels. It might not be surprising to learn that some angels are inherently stronger than others are, in the way some humans are physically stronger than others are. But we can’t be sure of that.

We do read in Revelation 12:7-8 (NIV) that Satan wasn’t strong enough to win against Michael and his army, but it isn’t clear what that means. For example, we don’t know if it means Michael was inherently stronger than Satan, or if at that moment God gave Michael superior strength, or if it was the fault of the satanic army that he wasn’t strong enough. We aren’t even sure, since we’re in an apocalyptic book, if we’re to think in terms of an actual battle and spiritual muscles.

(How do angels “fight”? Is it a clash of minds and wills rather than bone and muscle? It’s difficult not to imagine how they might fight but perhaps it isn’t important to come to conclusions on this or even to spend much time on it. The word “fight” which generates images of actual collision or killing may fool us. Paul speaks of us “wrestling” against spiritual enemies or “running a race” or “fighting a good fight” but none of these phrases mean we physically run or fight or wrestle. They’re metaphors for aspects of living (it’s true of course that there’s some reality indicated by the figure of speech—we truly and “actually” oppose enemies. Angels may war with or withstand one another simply by living to God’s glory or doing the reverse. See also Daniel 10:20-11:1).
We may be tempted to think that the differing degrees of position and implied authority among heavenly beings must speak of superior “strength”. Michael is an “arch” angel and is said to be a “chief” (Daniel 10:13; Jude 9) but there’s no way of knowing if this is because he is stronger than others are (that he has more spiritual muscles and could out-fight everybody). If we spent a lot of time reflecting on this we might think it means he is more glorious in some “non-power” way or more devoted to God, or some such thing. That Satan is spoken of as a leader among the hostile spiritual forces doesn’t prove he has more “coercive” power than all others do. It might be he gained notoriety because of his fierceness of his rebellion against God and so became the unspoken leader. (Al Capone, Hitler and Stalin come to mind as illustrations of people not physically strong but ruthless and shrewd and making promises that appealed to the vast majority and so gained a following. If we’re to speculate, something like that may be the case with Satan.)
Angels are supernatural beings and don’t belong to the “natural” realm but what does that entail? Does it mean because they are angels that they can create things? Can they work miracles? Can they read the minds of people? Because they are angels can they simply will people to become ill, or can they kill them if and when it pleases them?
                                                      What some angels did

We know angelic beings blinded rapacious sinners in Sodom, made a doubtful priest dumb for about nine months, slew a God-despising king and such like (see Genesis 19:1-11, Luke 1:19-20 and Acts 12:21-23) ; but do these events tell us anything about the power angels have as angels? In the cases above (and others like them) the angels are commissioned by God to do a job for Him so why shouldn’t we think He gave them the power needed to complete the job? In addition to that, these afflictions were judgments by good angels on crass evil or doubtful Zechariah as a witness to truth that enables him and others to believe the truth. Are they enough for us to build a theology of angelic power (satanic or not) that is outside of God’s control and empowerment? Do any of these illustrations tell us anything about the power angels have because they are angels? We hear that they are ministers of God (Hebrews 1:13-14). Do any of the tell us that satanic angels can exercise coercive or miraculous power?

                                       Ways in which God has given power

If and when God gives power there are at least two ways He might do it. He might build it into the creature as a permanent part of that creature’s constitution or He might give it on certain occasions only for a limited period. What little physical strength I have is structured into me; it’s connected with my physical equipment. Is that how it is with an angel or someone like Satan?
In Judges 13-17 we have Samson whose strength is legendary. The text doesn’t suggest that Samson was incredibly strong because of how he was built. The power wasn’t resident in his muscles (or in his hair). He was strong beyond ordinary humans when the Spirit of the Lord came on him (14:6 illustrates the point). It seems that Samson became strong when it suited God’s purposes, rather than God depositing the strength in him as a resident quality.
In the Gospels we see Christ empowering the apostles to work miracles as they go preaching (see Matthew 10:1-8 and parallels). This power is not resident in them (that is, it isn’t part of their human equipment). It seems they were gifted for the special occasions and it was super-human power that was given to them!  And when we say power is given to them it might be more accurate to say they were given access to it rather than that it was given to them.

Is that how it is with angels, good or satanic? It’s clear that in Job chapters 1 & 2 God commissioned Satan to carry out His (God’s) will. Note especially 1:11 and 2:5 along with 1:21 and 2:10. In the Job text we have no reason to believe that Satan had power over Job independent of God’s commission. Satan was God’s message boy. If we take the text as it sits it was God who commissioned him to do the job and it was God’s fire that burned Job’s fields (1:16) and it was God who brought calamity on him (42:11). “…then all his brother and all his sisters consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the Lord had brought upon him…”
We need to remember that any power Satan had he got it from God. His very existence and continued existence is the work of God. If Satan used his life and power for evil purposes or in a spirit of malice that’s his sin and when God uses Satan’s malice for His holy and worthy agenda that’s God’s glory. If we ask why God would allow sinful Satan to continue to exist we might go on to ask why He allows sinful humans to exist
                                                  There’s power and power

For discussion purposes I’d like to isolate two general forms of power: persuasive and coercive. According to the mayor of River City (in the movie The Music Man) the con-man Professor Harold Hill was a “spellbinder.” This was certainly true because Hill made a living out of talking people into things that up to then they had no desire to get into. That’s power. The winsome and lovely life of John McKay’s wife (in Mark Rutherford’s book Deliverance) finally transformed him from being an insensitive clod of a man into a generous and warm human being. That’s power too. These are complex processes but when we discuss them the word “influence” often crops up. The power involved in accomplishing the results aimed at depends in part on those who are changed. The change-agents don’t physically (or otherwise) overwhelm or coerce those who are changed. There’s the element of “persuasion” in it all. This power isn’t irresistible and hence “coercive”.
Romans 1:16 speaks of the gospel (of God–1:1) as God’s power to save. That gospel is not coercive. To speak of God’s gospel as His dynamite is entirely misleading both linguistically and in the light of the fact that countless people resist His power. The saving power Paul says in this text is the revelation of God’s righteousness (faithfulness).
There’s another form of power. John 2 tells us Christ willed it so and water became wine. He doesn’t negotiate. He simply will it and it is so—it’s a self-evidencing creative act. On another occasion He spoke a word to a storm and it ceased. The very nature of the cases says there’s no persuasion; there’s no attempt at wooing. This is naked, creative power that “makes it so”. For convenience sake I’m calling it coercive power. In the two instances given it’s irresistible; it has the nature of “creative” power.
Humans exercise coercive power (within human limits). Let a murderer put a gun to the head of your beloved and say, “Do this or I’ll kill her!” We rightly call this coercive power, though it isn’t irresistible. We’ve known or heard of people who refused to live rather than do what was demanded under threat. This is not coercion of the same order as changing water to wine with a wish or making a tornado so we can wreck a house and kill the children (as in the book of Job). These last two go far beyond unaided human ability and there’s no resisting the power.
Coercive power gains its objective without co-operation from anyone or anything else. Bearing in mind that since we exist and continue to exist because it pleases God (Revelation 4:11; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17) we continue to derive our power, coercive or persuasive, from Him. So it is with Satan.
No one has creative power but GOD. Even the power of Jesus was given to Him by God (Acts 10:38).

Jesus Came Preaching (Part 1 of 2)

Watch the latest video from McGuiggan Reflections.
McGuiggan Reflections Ep 103
Series: Preacher and His Work
Section: God Maketh Himself Present

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  1. We’re witnessing to the faithful God’s fulfillment of His six centuries-old promise to faithless Israel that’s recorded in Jeremiah 31:31-34. (See Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 8:7-13; Romans 15:7-13.)
  2. We’re proclaiming God’s faithfulness to faithless non-Jewish nations of the world as promised in Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18. (See Acts 3:25; Romans 1:18–3:20; Ephesians 2:11-22; 3:1-7; Romans 11:13-18; 15:27.)
  3. We’re proclaiming that God’s sentence has been passed on the satanic world and that the prince of that world has been defeated by God through the death of Jesus Christ: John 12:31; 16:33; Colossians 2:15.
  4. We’re proclaiming that Sin and Death were conquered by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: Romans 5:12, 14, 21; Hebrews 2:14-15; John 6:50; 11:26; 1 Peter 1:3; 3:21—”…baptism now saves us…by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
  5. We’re proclaiming our rejection of all gods ancient or modern, and their demonic nature: 1 Corinthians 11:14-22; John 18:33-37.
  6. We’re proclaiming the forgiveness of sins for the world in and because of the grace of God manifested in the self-giving death of the Lord Jesus: 1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 4:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Galatians 1:3-5; 2:20.
  7. We’re proclaiming immortal and glorious life for all who are embraced in the saving work of God in the Lord Jesus Christ at His returning: 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 11; 26; 15:54-55.
  8. We’re proclaiming judgment as we eat and drink in His very presence on all that is selfish in thought and behavior, on all that is unlike Jesus Christ who on the night He was betrayed gave Himself rather than burn with resentment and who on that night selflessly gave Himself for all those in need. 1 Corinthians 11:17-26 and 27-29.




Sometime back in a snatch from the Oprah Winfrey show I heard Oprah ask a gentleman (essentially), “So what do you think happens to us when we die?” and his answer was, “I don’t give it any thought.”

Oprah’s question was not, “What do you think happens to the starved, plundered and butchered millions when they die?” but what happens to us when “we” die.
It’s astonishing how the complexion of the question changes when we ask, “What happens to the enslaved, raped and murdered nations?” instead of what happens to those of us who are well-fed, housed healthy and befriended.

In this man’s religion everything’s about himself.    

I gathered from the brief remarks in the dialogue that his view of God was that “God is an ‘experience’ and not Someone who is, independent of our experience. For him, God is not Someone to believe in, Someone who has an agenda, a purpose toward which He is moving; a purpose that involves a new creation where righteousness, joy, peace and adventure is the order of life. To him God is not Someone we’re accountable to for the life given to us. GOD is an experience. In short, his God is not the GOD of Jesus Christ. But what does that matter? Let’s follow Oprah’s guest.

“So, let’s all sit in silence and feel ourselves breathing!”
There now, doesn’t that feel good? Don’t you feel better, nice n cozy n relaxed?

Who cares if there is no Final Judgment?
Who cares if the multiplied millions never see justice and restitution?

Who cares if they aren’t allowed to feel themselves breathe while others wallow in sheer self-indulgence of a religion that feeds their hunger (greed?) for emotional experience?

Who cares if there is no resurrection to life for the beaten, starved and defenseless children, butchered by unrepentant machete-wielding brutes?
“Let’s all sit here in silence and feel our divinity.”

When the atheist Dennett was asked, “Would you not like there to be a God like the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ?” he immediately said, “No. I have no need of him.”—Godless and content that it should be so.
Had he been asked, “Would you not like someone to rise up and bring justice and blessing to the world’s abused and starving?” He would have said, “Of course I would.” He would not have said, “No, I have no need of him.”

Here lies one of the suppurating ulcers that flourish at the corrupt heart of all these synergistic religious movements—they’re designed to feed us who are already so well-fed (in every sense). More! More!

This much is clear: Say “God” is nothing but our experience or that “God” is wishful thinking and we’ve proclaimed the doom of the countless plundered poor. What was and is the “God” of their experience? Maybe we can think about that when we sit down to worship our inner divinity, fix our minds on our breathing or pray, asking the Lord God Almighty to get us a hairdresser that pleases us.

Two things said Kant fill me with awe
The starry heavens and the moral law.
But I know something more mysterious and obscure
The long long patience of the plundered poor.



The late vehement atheist Christopher Hitchens didn’t at all mind saying that the liked the poetry of GK Chesterton. I like that though I’m certain that Hitchens wouldn’t have cared whether I did or didn’t. Hitchens (who was shaped by more experiences than even he knew) marched to the drumbeat he heard. I don’t know how many streams feed our human convictions—life is all too complex to pretend we know a LOT about it—but there was something about the bitter Hitchens that I found appealing. I had the same experience with Carl Sagan, atheist and astronomer. I don’t find Dennett or Harris or Dawkins appealing—I wonder how many streams feed my distaste for them?

I know this, and I like it: Hitchens and I like Chesterton’s poetry and though I have no grounds whatever to support what I think, I like to think that Hitchens knew this poem and liked the gallantry he saw in it. Yes, even the unselfish gallantry in it! Hitchens had little patience for people like me because his convictions differed so radically from my own and because he looked for the wrong kind of “proof” for my faith. The kind of “proof” he sought from believers like me wouldn’t support his own faith. But that’s another discussion and besides, atheist or not, I think that the gospel about God blessed Christopher Hitchens with qualities I’d like to have in me or more marked in me than they are. Without going into a long discussion about how God does that I just wish to claim that Hitchens’ liking of GK’s poetry is one of the “proofs” that He did.

It appears beyond doubt that Lord Byron lived a truly libertine life though some like Richard Edgcumbe disputed it. Still, there were things about him that must be admired—well things I can’t help but admire. Will Durant the noted historian (and agnostic) quotes Leslie Marchand who has Byron’s chief physician say, right close to the end, that the poet said he did not know what to believe in this world. Then, “I heard him say, ‘Shall I sue for mercy?’ “and after a long pause, ‘Come, come; no weakness! Let’s be a man to the end.’ ” I wish to believe that Byron at that point was telling himself that he should take what was coming to him. Being an accomplished literary man Hitchens would know of that and it would appeal to him as the kind of thing one should do—live and die by one’s convictions. Hitchens’ bitter anger and anguish-bringing disease would add bitterness to his long-held atheistic convictions. He was only 62! So young. (Bless me, I can hardly believe that Hitchens died late in 2011, where did those nearly seven years go?)

Chesterton had only just left 62 behind when he died in 1936 (the year before I was born). The poem that follows is the gallantry of a firm believer in God and a very fine man but I find it easy to believe that the confrontational Hitchens would have admired the unselfish nature of the gallantry Chesterton expresses in the poem. There is so much in the poem but I want to focus on the non-whimpering message in it—not as a rebuke, but as an inspiration. I want to be like this myself and I can’t but believe that others wish it also. Staying with the same thought but making it clear that Chesterton and Hitchens were light years apart there’s this in GK’s poem, The Deluge. Noah is in the middle of planetary chaos (by which God made Himself present against moral evil that was worldwide) standing upright in unremitting storm and tsunamis with a cup of wine in his hand and looking skyward and saying:

Though giant rains put out the sun,
Here stand I for a sign.
Though earth be filled with waters dark,
My cup is filled with wine.
Tell to the trembling priests that here
Under the deluge rod,
One nameless, tattered, broken man
Stood up, and drank to God.

I took my cue from the poem and wrote a little book that Random House picked up. I called it Celebrating the Wrath of God. You might think it worth reading. Okay, that’s the commercial over. I didn’t intend to mention the book when I began writing this piece. It just happened.

I admire gallantry where I think I see it (don’t we all?) whether it’s in a heretic or an atheist—whoever! But I particularly admire it when I see those who’ve trusted their lives to God and won’t back away from it even in the middle of personal chaos when they’re sharing pain along with the human family—they don’t negotiate for exemption from hurt and they don’t get it. To truly commit to Him in faith against all the powers of unbelief, cruelty and utter selfishness and do it cheerfully and without apology is heroic! I was going to offer some help to you who are reading this with the poem but I’ve changed my mind. Read this superb thing that follows. Work at it if you need to—it’s worth it. And if you wish to, write me at giving me your response and/or interpretation. Line 8 is wondrous and the last 2 lines can leave you happily dazed for a good while.

This much, O heaven—if I should brood or rave,
Pity me not; but let the world be fed,
Yea, in my madness if I strike me dead,
Heed you the grass that grows upon my grave.
If I dare snarl between this sun and sod,
Whimper and clamor, give me grace to own,
In sun and rain and fruit in season shown,
The shining silence of the scorn of God.
Thank God the stars are set beyond my power,
If I must travail in a night of wrath,
Thank God my tears will never vex a moth,
Nor any curse of mine cut down a flower.
Men say the sun was darkened: yet I had
Thought it beat brightly, even on—Calvary:
And He that hung upon the Torturing Tree
Heard all the crickets singing, and was glad.

(Holy Father bring us and keep us close to your heart and expect much of us for you have given us much to give—each in our own way and all of us as one. This prayer in the One who hanging on a Torture Tree could still hear the crickets sing.)





This is a brief overview of how the book of Revelation hangs together. There are some additional remarks in other pieces I mean to put up (God enabling) that offer some support for some of the assumptions that are made in what follows. SIBI in Lubbock TX puts out a commentary on Revelation that I wrote a long time ago. I think it’s worth reading. Whatever its flaws it’s as good as others I’ve read. Here we go with this (too) hurried survey.

Revelation speaks eternal truths in a temporal setting. It is a letter written to seven churches that existed during the Roman Empire. These seven specific congregations represent what was and is true about all the churches that go to make up the Body of Christ. They live in a world of corruption and oppression and they themselves are infected to more or less degree by the world in which they live.

But they have this: they belong to God and have been called to live to the glory of God and rehearse the truth about the God who has revealed himself to the world in and as Jesus Christ, the Lord of a new creation and Lord of all.
In this book, the Christ who abides in the church (chapter 1) is seen in conflict with the Dragon who abides in the Roman Empire (chapter 13 and elsewhere). The specific historical events in which that conflict is focused are to come to pass shortly because the time for them is near (1:1,3 and 22:6,10, compared with Daniel 8:26). John chooses out (or rather, is given) a specific slice of history and that slice is invested with meaning and significance. What is that meaning and significance? John is told something like: “See in it and tell to the church, ‘Your enemy is ruthless and powerful and satanic but I am all-powerful and your enemy rises only to go to his doom’.”
Other events were going on in other distant parts of the world; events just as tumultuous in their social and political consequences as those going on in the Roman Empire. But it is the slice of history that John and his contemporaries are acquainted with that God chooses to declare eternal and assuring truth. God reigns!

The eternal and assuring truth is not told in prose (as it is, say, in Mark or 1 Samuel or Kings) but in images, pictures. Many of the images are borrowed from the OT and, among other things, they serve to give visible and earthly events a spiritual and cosmic dimension. There’s more in what you see than what you see.
In chapter 1 the living Christ reveals himself to John as the faithful witness and ruler of the kings of the earth and as the redeemer and the one that lives in the church. He commissions John to record everything he has seen—even the initial vision and the commission to write.
Chapters 2–3. He then turns to the seven churches and addresses their needs (commendation and encouragement, rebuke and consolation, warning and assurance). He prepares them for the coming conflict. Throughout the book there is constant comfort and assurance offered precisely because the enemy is so powerful and cruel and frightening.
Chapters 4 and 5 lay down the truth that sets the tone for the whole book. This truth is meant to shape the response of the church in the totality of its life. It will remind the church who alone is worthy of worship and who governs all the powers that exist in the world. Chapter 4 shows that the throne that rules the world is not in Rome, Italy but in heaven and chapter 5 shows that at the center of that throne is a Lamb that has been slain (by Rome, no less). It is not lying down but standing alive again.
There is a little book in chapter 5 (the immediate destiny of the saints) that is completely sealed (with seven seals) and which can be opened only by Jesus Christ for He alone is worthy. Seals conceal and protect from tampering.
In chapter 6 six of the seals are torn off, revealing the conquering Christ, God’s four sore judgments (war, famine, pestilence and wild animals—a common list in the OT—Ezekiel 14:21, and chapter, then the appeal of the slaughtered righteous and the judgment coming against the oppressive world.
Chapter 7 gives the assurance that in this judgment the people of God (pictured as 144,000 Jews) are exempted from the judgment. (Not exempted from suffering but from God’s wrath against the dragon and Rome his instrument on this occasion). The Lamb’s followers are sealed against the judgment (see Ezekiel 9:1-6). But does the sealing work? The last half of the chapter says it does and we see the 144,000 under a different image coming through the tribulation. They are now described in terms of the celebration at a Jewish Tabernacle Feast. The Feast of Tabernacles was the most joyous of all Jewish feasts. It was a celebration of God protecting and sustaining Israel through their awful wilderness journeys and it was a promise of future providence.
Chapters 8 & 9. With the tearing off of the seventh seal we’re introduced to the seven trumpets. In the OT, trumpets called the nation to attention and were sounded as warnings. This was common throughout the ancient world. The trumpets are warning judgments and not the full outpouring of God’s wrath on the impenitent and oppressive world. As imaged the warning judgments are modeled on the OT plagues on Egypt. Certain portions of the earth, waters and heavens are affected but we’re told that the worshipers of evil are unrepentant and like Pharaoh and his cronies they refuse to give God glory.
Chapters 10-12 are more comfort since we’re told that the enemy still fiercely resists God’s judgments. John’s commission is renewed and the church is pictured in chapter 11 under the image of two witnesses. The OT has numerous illustrations of two witnesses (Moses & Aaron, Elijah & Elisha, Zerubbabel & Joshua) and the church in 11 do the wonders that they can do while holding forth the word of God as they did. The picture of these witnesses reminds us that even during troubled times they are unstoppable and that even when it appears they are defeated they really are not. In chapter 12 the people of God are seen under two images: a glorious Woman (the corporate whole) and her children (the individual members). She is driven into the wilderness and there protected (as Israel and Elijah were).
Chapter 13. The chapters of assurance and call to faithful commitment are needed because the enemy is indeed power-filled, savage and satanic. Chapter 13 introduces us to two bestial images of the Roman Empire. The first is Rome as a military power (the sea beast) and instead of honoring God they choose to submit to and extend the authority of the Dragon, the Serpent and the Devil. The second (earth) beast is Rome as a perverted religious power that serves to bind all the nations to Rome in a way that goes beyond what mere force can accomplish. The religious structures of Rome are another way of expressing her power and that power is satanic. A third image of Rome is presented in chapters 17 and 18 where Rome is both a woman and a city. There it is Rome as the world’s leading commercial power that is supported by the military might of the sea beast.
Chapters 4—12 and 14—19 have huge chunks of praise to God and these sections sandwich chapter 13 where the world worships the Roman beast. This is a central truth hammered home again and again: worship God and God alone. See 19:10 and 22:8!
Chapters 14—15. In light of the frightening images that reflect the beasts and the world that worships the beast, chapters 14—15 speak comfort and courage again. And in a series of announcements (like newspaper headlines) they proclaim assurance to the people of God that Rome and all its allies are to be destroyed. These chapters preview what will happen in later chapters (like the battle of Armageddon, the destruction of the great city and the like).
As the seventh seal contained the seven trumpets so the seventh trumpet contains the seven bowls of wrath. Taken in their entirety the seven bowls complete the outpouring of God’s wrath on the satanic kingdom and all that support it. The description of the battle of Armageddon (remember 1:1,3 and 22:6,10) is between those that come from the sunrise and cross water on dry ground and the two beast and the armies that support them. This is another way to describe the people of God against Rome. No one in scripture crosses water on dry ground but the people of God (see other pieces on this). The outpouring of the seven bowls are briefly described and remind us of the plagues against Egypt when they were the power that oppressed God’s people and opposed God’s purposes in the world. Aspects of what the seven bowls cover are developed in chapters 18—20. (See the notes on the identity of the woman and the heads and kings in chapter 17.)
Chapter 17—18 speak of Rome as a great Prostitute that all the kings and merchants of the world commit fornication with. She is the city on seven hills that rules the world in John’s day and she is supported by her military might. Her commercial nature is demonstrated in the almost tedious description of her as the world’s warehouse. Like so many other nations she destroys herself by inner division and she goes does in flames (chapter 18). This is Rome’s destruction as viewed by one set of images.
Just prior to the description of the battle of Armageddon the Lamb and his people have a celebration under the image of marriage feast. In a marriage feast both parties fully identify with one another and rejoice in one another. All this is in chapter 19 where the battle is then fought between the satanic empowered beasts and their allies and the Christ and His white-horsed followers. In chapter 16 where the battle was previewed it was between the beasts and their armies and those from the sunrise that crossed water on dry ground. Here is it between the beasts and their armies and Christ and his people.
The battle ends with the utter destruction of the two beasts, the death of their allies and the imprisonment of the dragon.
Chapter 20 describes the defeat of the Dragon. It is described as a 1,000-year imprisonment. This 1,000-year relates only to his use of Rome and it describes his defeat in that venture as utter and complete.
John now sees a great battlefield with a host of dead people scattered over it. In the war against the beasts many had been faithful to Christ until death. John sees many of the dead on the battlefield come to life and take their places with others and reign with Christ. Not all on the battlefield come to life—only those who have died for Christ. The rest of the dead had been allies of Rome and they remain dead. John sees what he calls a “first” resurrection and that’s a resurrection to life. He speaks of another resurrection that is not unto life but unto a second death.
The entire 1,000-year series of images refer to Rome and its allies and the Dragon that inspired the anti-God venture. The Dragon is bound a thousand years, the allies of the beasts lie dead for a thousand years and the righteous reign in triumph for a thousand years. Those all relate to the conflict with Rome and describe it from different angles. (Do those who die for Christ in the conflict lose? No! How are we told that? In an image, they resurrect and reign in triumph with Christ.)
Now assured that Rome loses, the question arises: “Can we always be assured of triumph?” That is answered (as it is in Ezekiel 38—39) with another image. Satan is given another chance, raises an army from the four corners of the earth, comes against God’s people and is utterly destroyed. The immediate future is secure (Rome is going down) and the entire future is secure (any enemy, however huge, will go down).
Chapters 21-22 Now that we know that Rome and the world she shaped has been overcome, in chapters 21—22 we have a picture of a new world, a new heaven and earth. The people of God are described as a glorious and indestructible city (not a wreck) and a bride glorious dressed (not in tattered clothing). The Roman world of oppression and evil has been destroyed and a new world where God’s righteousness has been vindicated fills out the entire drama.

                                 Triumph & Loss in Revelation

The future victory of the redeemed is described in numerous images. Marriage suppers, a City 1,4000 miles high, wide and broad, made of jewels and precious things. There is an Edenic garden with lines of Trees of Life with leaves that heal the diseases of the nations, enthronement for 1,000 years and access to a River of Life (and numerous other images in the book).
The fate of the defeated armies of the Dragon and his Beasts is to be trampled in a winepress until the blood is a river six feet deep and one hundred and eighty miles long (14:17-20). Their fate is death, resurrection to a second death, ceaseless burning in a lake of fire (which in 14:9-11 is located in the presence of the Lamb) and various other things. Speech borrowed from Isaiah 34 & 66.

To take either of these two composite pictures as the actual description of what is yet ahead and build a doctrine on it that people must receive or be called heretics makes no sense to me. I don’t think the Revelation passages that speak of a lake of fire should be used to support the doctrine of eternal conscious torture of the unforgiven. I think that the battle in Revelation is Christ and the Church against the Dragon and Rome. The extended picture of Rome’s defeat, which includes warning plagues, followed by a full outpouring of wrath, wasn’t meant to be understood in any literal fashion. I don’t think we’re supposed to take the judgment scenes literally either. These are all images of how an anti-God, anti-holiness, anti-life tyrannical kingdom was to go down before a God of holiness, life and power. It spoke to the church in the first century and speaks to every generation that follows.

To build a picture of heavenly bliss or hellish torture in the future on the details given in these images is to miss the mark completely.

Book of Revelation     Battle of Armageddon


It wasn’t limitless power that moved Him to create; it was love!
Limitless wisdom wasn’t what moved Him to create. It was love!
It wasn’t indisputable sovereignty that moved Him to empty Himself. It was love!
His personal need didn’t move Him to seek friendship. Our need did!
If in Jesus’ life here we truly saw God, it wasn’t punishing that was on His mind.
If on the cross we saw God’s heart we saw what it always was and always will be!
God didn’t punish us with alienation. Sin is alienation—we chose alienation!
In love He came to end it! He never wanted it and He doesn’t want it now!
Almighty God seeks our friendship!