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Jun 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation chapter 20



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome RefleXion Community!      Grace and Peace to you!

Well, as you know, spiritual maturity is a process—and it is a partnership.  When you tell God you’re sincere about growing in Him, about seeing what’s Real, He honors that intention by shedding light on a few things.  And, well, it’s not all like, “Look at that miracle!  Delight in that!  Recognize your gifts!”  To see the Real, we must, in honesty, see ourselves more clearly. If I want to be in awareness, I need to notice and disengage with what’s preventing that, taking up the space.  If I’m awakening to seeing the Real, I will want to release my cloudy, out-of-focus view, like putting on new glasses.  That will be a welcome change.  But it doesn’t happen without a bit of surrender of what else is in the room.  We can call it the false self, the small self, or the ego self.  First, we consent to this work.  Then we engage in it.  God will give us opportunities to awaken.

I had a few awakening moments this week.  I caught myself saying, “Oh darn I forgot to put on my Fitbit before I walked out there.”  I was really telling myself that it wouldn’t count if my steps weren’t recorded.  I mean I was still doing the walk and would benefit from it, but “what?” no record?  I also caught myself noticing a patch of beautiful flowers and my first thought?  “Oh, I’ve got to take a picture of that.”  Well, I did, and that’s OK; but I took the picture and then kept going instead of enjoying the flowers for a bit!  All ways I’m realizing my lack of presence and clues as to what my ego self might deeply believe about what really matters.

Another awakening moment, and you may have heard it said that “expectations kill relationships.”  Well, I hope not.  There was a challenge in a relationship this week, I was able to observe my ego self needing to blame, to fix, to run—but as I waited, I could see it more clearly:  we just had different expectations—no one could be blamed.  Noticing and becoming free from the ways the ego self wants to have the power allows me the recognition that the real power, as with the Trinity, is in the capacity for relationship, for communion.  There is no space for that capacity with an overwhelm of the ego.

I think these are God’s ways for me to awaken so I can be in awareness, the capacity to hold what is actually here without judging, labeling, or fixing.  I’ve heard it said that being is the ground for doing and the quality of our being informs our doing.  We’re on our way, friends.  Let’s present ourselves to this present moment and to the presence of Jesus right here, right now. 

Dear God, Let us heal deeply, let us free space for the Real to receive the deep love of Jesus.  We present ourselves to the present hour, your presence with us.  It is enough, more than enough.  Welcome Lord. 

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. Revelation 19:1-3

Intro: When Jesus told the parable of the Prodigal Son,

He did not expect anyone to come to him afterward and say,
– “Lord, I’d like to visit that family. Where do where they live?”
• it was just a story – a made-up story meant to make a point
• if all the crowd heard was a heart-warming story, they missed the point
– here in Revelation 19, John describes a vision – Satan is imprisoned
• then, after 1,000 years he is unleashed on world again
◦ if that were meant to be taken literally, it makes no sense to me
• of course, John wasn’t worried about it making sense to me
◦ he knew that behind the vision there was a bigger truth

From the beginning of Revelation, we’ve been bombarded with symbols
– here in verse 1 are two evocative symbols: a key and a chain
• these are classic images in fairytales that can represent
◦ freedom and confinement or knowledge and foolishness
• symbols give us more than information
◦ they give us a feeling of what they mean
◦ working in our imagination makes stronger connection in our brains circuitry
– but we also have less control over symbols
• solid facts give us a sense of control
◦ we have no control over symbols — they work us in ways we don’t even realize
• so I am not going to treat the millennium as a real thing, but as a story within the vision
◦ I respect your belief if for you it is real thing

The other theme of this chapter is judgment
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom [judgment] was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. 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 were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God ad of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years
Revelation 20:4-6

There are two judgment scenes, and first here seems like an award ceremony
– three groups are identified:
• judges who are seated on thrones and make the decisions
• those who were beheaded for their witness and the word of God
• those who had been through the worst of the beast’s reign
– their reward is that “they came to life and reigned with Christ”
• they have the privilege of enjoying the thousand years of peace
◦ in regard to the resurrection, they are given priority
This is the first resurrection

What is the significance of resurrection occurring in two stages?
– I’m not at all certain, but my best guess would be,
• God’s people have always held a special regard for martyrs
◦ we will all exit this world
◦ some will be killed because of their loyalty to Jesus
• that’s who we find here – and they’re given a benediction in verse 6
– so there are two resurrections and two deaths
• perhaps we’re to be inspired by two resurrections
• and perhaps we’re meant to be terrified by two deaths

Some years ago when I was giving serious thought to suicide, I would imagine the exact moment that I died. What if in that instant I was shown all the good God would have done with my life had I not taken my life. More than once that dreadful thought turned my mind away from self-destruction as a solution to my depression. That’s what first comes to mind when I read of two deaths. (We’ll see there’s another possible meaning for the “second death.”

The vision quickly passes over the idyllic thousand years

Before we go there, let’s probe this hiatus in the devil’s absence
– whatever insight is revealed here is meant for us
• not because we live at a special moment in history
◦ or because we’re living in this part of the world
• but because the message is for people who know and follow Jesus
– for now, the best I can do in finding a reason for the break from Satan is a list of “maybes”

Maybe we all have seasons when the devil doesn’t pester us
– I assume that we all have moments of intense temptation
• but then also stretches of relief when there’s no temptation
• after Jesus’ temptations in the desert, Luke says,
When the Devil finished tempting Jesus in every way, he left him for a while (Lk. 4:13 GNB)
◦ maybe we get breaks like that too, before the devil returns
Maybe there are times when our spiritual development flourishes
– when it is easy to pray and practice the disciplines necessary for spiritual growth
– perhaps we’re meant to exploit those opportunities
• maybe they will be the most productive times of our lives
Maybe we need to discover what’s in us and what we do when we have no excuse
– Jacques Ellul suggested this thought
• when we have no one else to blame,
◦ how do we handle our wrongdoing or failure to do what’s right?
• the classic example of the “blame game” is Adam and Eve
The man said, “The woman . . ., she gave me fruit of the tree and I ate”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate”
◦ ultimately, they were blaming God; e.g., The woman whom you gave to be with me . . . .
– if I am ever going to be a better person,
• I have to face the flaws and sink holes of my nature that are mine alone
• the miracle is, that as soon as I discover and confess them, I am given help

So the devil was again set loose

But he did not last long
– he immediately returned to doing what he’s always done: deceive the nations
• this is his first and greatest weapon – and hugely successful
• but no sooner does the army he rallies surround Jerusalem,
◦ than fire falls from the sky and destroys them all
◦ after that, there is no more devil, no more evil

A final judgment
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire Revelation 20:11-15

There’s only one throne here; and what can we say regarding the Person who occupies it?
– I tried to think of the right word and couldn’t find one
• “terrifying” creates the wrong impression
• what came to mind, is Daniel’s reaction to one of his visions
I was the only one who saw the vision. The men with me did not see anything, but they were terrified and ran and hid. I was left there alone, watching this amazing vision. I had no strength left, and my face was so changed that no one could have recognized me. When I heard his voice, I fell to the ground unconscious (Dan. 10:7-9)
– what John observed was that
“From his presence earth and sky fled away and no place was found for them”
• a few times I’ve watched courtroom proceedings
◦ something I’ll never understand is when a person gets into an argument with the judge
◦ they only get themselves into deeper trouble
• John describes a scene so threatening, that no one would dare to argue

This scene passes quickly too
– I am thinking that the issue here is not only whether my deeds were good or bad,
• but what kind of person am I?
◦ Jesus said we judge a tree by its fruits
◦ someone’s deeds–good or bad–tell us the kind of person they are
• I image this judgment as a whole life summary
– “lake of fire” sounds frightening
• but I suppose John’s original audience would have understood it differently
◦ it was a common way of getting rid of rubbish or weeds

Anyway, I find it fascinating that Death and Hades are also thrown into the lake of fire
– Paul wrote, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26)
Jacques Ellul, “. . . we comprehend well why the “second death” is spoken of here: it is not at all, as most commentators think, the ‘definitive’ and ‘spiritual’ death, which would be opposed to [physical] death: it is a matter of the death of Death. Death with its action, its whole action, upon earth is the first. But when it itself is condemned to the nothingness of the fire, to the abyss of fire, this is a new phenomenon; it is the Second Death. That which acts upon Death itself.”

Conclusion: Let’s revisit one last time Satan’s incarceration and release one last time

People who work in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction,
– tell us that the greatest danger to recovery is relapse
• but they also tell us relapse is frequently a stage of recovery
They say this because they don’t want to discourage the person who has relapsed;
like one slip and they’re doomed to be addicts forever
They want their relapsed friend to get up and return to the program

Perhaps we enjoy times of spiritual freedom
Everything goes well – relationships, daily routine, a richness in prayer
Inevitably, we’ll hit another spot in our journey that is hard again
Perhaps the devil has returned
But no matter, you’ll make it through
The battle for your soul has already been won,
because he who is in you than he that is in the world (1 Jn. 4:4)

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