When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, in order to gather them for battle; they are as numerous as the sands of the sea. They marched up over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from heaven and consumed them. And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
John’s vision has some strikingly powerful images.
The words apocalypse and revelation make us think of end times and destruction, but the original meaning is simply about revealing.
To anyone who has ever been to anywhere volcanic, the lake of fire and sulphur conjures up images of the world being torn apart. Perhaps it transports us to Dante’s Inferno, the world of Tolkein or maybe Game of Thrones.
It shows us chaos and battles where good appears to lose to evil. Wars where justice is trampled into the dust, where hope diminishes and truth perishes.
In a world that has been ravaged by a disease caused by a virus that we can’t see, it has been possible to glimpse an apocalyptic vision.
The words of this last book in the Bible are difficult to understand. The images they conjure up are troubling. But they were written in troubled times for a people being persecuted, and alongside the devastation they describe there is hope.
We are more geared nowadays to thinking in terms of positive and inclusive language in our churches, we often fight shy of words like evil, the Devil, Satan. But there are plenty of aspects of our world where we need to call out and act where we see things that harm us. Injustice, greed and selfishness can & should be challenged.
Although this passage speaks of destruction, waiting there is a God of love. We’re called upon to act in ways that show that love.
Standing by while people are trafficked into modern slavery, vast swathes of forests burnt, and children are given guns to fight in wars aren’t just distant things that don’t concern us. They are the fire and brimstone of a world burning beneath our feet.
We have the gospel imperative to spread the Good News to help to put out those fires.
God of power Empower us to share your love and your healing power Help us to call out and fight anything that harms your world and diminishes your people Give us courage to stand up to evil And the strength to protect, to listen to and to encourage those who suffer Amen