Revelation – A Dark Corner of the Bible

My wife and I have been reading the Bible together for years.  We finally reached the last book, Revelation, which I call the dark corner of the Bible.  My wife, who is very religious, was clearly upset as we started reading this book.  Revelation, written by John, is apocalyptic in nature.  It does not paint a pretty picture of the future.  If read literally, it seems to say that only 144,000 people will enter God’s kingdom, Revelation 7:4.  That’s a very, very low percentage of the total of Homo sapiens who have populated earth for thousands of years.  My wife looked at me and was crying when she said, “I don’t have a chance.”

The notion that few people will be permitted to enter the new world is not unique to the Book of Revelation.  Jesus, discussing entrance into the kingdom of heaven, stated in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Many true Christians, who reflect on their sins, will draw a similar conclusion as my wife did.  We all have sinned, so obviously never having sinned is not the ticket to God’s universe, so we all thought that we had a pretty good chance of entering heaven.  As it turns out, the odds may be better of winning the lottery.

Actually, the people who believe that they will enter God’s heaven are the ones least likely to receive an invitation.  Typically, they go to church on Sunday, confess their sins, and then go back out Monday and start sinning again, building up their bad behavior to a crescendo on Saturday, so they can return to church on Sunday confessing their sins.

Personally, I was challenged by Revelation.  I want to be a better person because of it, and I will never stop working toward that end.  Even if I do not make the grade or pass Judgment Day, I will do my best and will not be deterred from that goal.  My wife had a different reaction to the darkness of Revelation.  She was depressed and did not want to read the book anymore.

Revelation is depressing to many believers.  These believers will be happily separated from unbelievers in Hades during the first death, with the first judgment based on belief and not works.  But the second death mentioned in Revelation 20:14 may be more problematic for believers.  Revelation 20:12 reveals a second judgment of the dead, “great and small,” which will examine what we have done with our lives.  One interpretation of the “great and small” might mean both believers and non-believers.  Thus, most believers do not want to discuss the second judgment, which may be based on their deeds or misdeeds during their lifetimes.

As I said, all of us have sinned, so we all do not want to be judged on those things that we have done in the past.  We want to believe that Jesus died for our sins, and our sin debt was paid in full.  However, that is just the first death.  Revelation gets into details on the second death and clearly indicates that the judgment on this second death will be based on our works.  This part of Revelation really upset my wife, but I explained to her that there are always consequences for our choices.  But by becoming one with God, we become a better, stronger spirit as we stand before the “great white throne” described in Revelation 20:11.

It is really quite logical.  If you were destroying the universe you had created and were repopulating a new world, you would not offer invitations to those who corrupted the old world.  You would want a fresh start with the best of the best.  Otherwise, the new universe would become just like the old.  Only those who were truly Godly would be invited.  That’s why your best chance may be to unify with God and be like Jesus during your lifetime.

If I do not make the grade, I pray that my spirit will be destroyed along with my body, so that I will not be twisting in my own thoughts for eternity.  I hope that my efforts to unite with God and follow the teachings of Jesus will earn me entry into the kingdom, but if they do not, then I would prefer destruction of my consciousness over eternal hell with my thoughts.

Revelation seems to offer three possible final destinations for all Homo sapiens, past and present:  (1) only 144,000 enter God’s kingdom, Revelation 7:4, also referenced as “the prophets and your saints” in Revelation 11:18, (2) others may be terminated as those “who destroy the earth,” Revelation 11:18, perhaps meaning that they will be in that “lukewarm” group described in Revelation 3:16 which does not take a stand and through omission allows the earth to be destroyed by evil, while (3) a third group listed as “the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars” in Revelation 21:8,  will be judged according to what they have done and will be thrown into the “lake of fire,” Revelation 20:14, to reflect on their misgivings forever.

Realistically, I don’t expect to be in the first group, but I am going to work hard to be in the second which will magnanimously be put out of its misery through complete annihilation, which only the Creator can do through His grace.  Remember, nothing can be created or destroyed in our universe, but God can mercifully destroy us, if He so desires, in His universe.  The consequence of being in the third group is an unbelievably horrible punishment of being left behind in a closed universe with your own thoughts forever.  I cannot think of any sentence that would be worse.  The Bible describes this torture as “men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them,” Revelation 9:6.

John, the Gnostic

John, who is considered to be the author of the Gospel of John, the three books of John, and Revelation at the end of the Bible, is one of a handful of Gnostic writers whose works were not destroyed by the church establishment.  A majority of the books included in the Bible had no Gnostic theology at all, so it is important to examine John’s books to uncover the beliefs of an important Christian sect that was pushed into a dark corner to be hidden from future Christians.

Why were the Gnostics so feared by the church leaders?  Well, it is rather simple.  The Gnostics did not believe that clergy were required to intercede for believers to reach God.  The central thesis for the Gnostics was dualism:  the spirit is entirely good, while matter is entirely evil.  The human body and all material in the universe are bad, while God and the spirit are good.  Separation of your spirit from your body requires special knowledge.  The Greek word for knowledge is gnosis, the derivative for Gnosticism.  Thus, Gnostics believed that you unified with God and became one with God through your mind by leaving your body behind.

In the Gospel of John, the author emphasized that God would send down the Holy Spirit to help us become one with God, just like Jesus and God are one, John 17:11.  Jesus said that the Spirit will be in us, John 14:17.  Jesus is in his Father, just like he will be in you and you in him, John 14:20 and 17:22-23.  After Jesus died, he returned to command us to “receive the Holy Spirit,” John 20:22.

John’s books were included in the Bible because he was not an extreme Gnostic.  For example, some Gnostics believed in “docetism,” which meant that Jesus only seemed to have a body.  John believed some Gnostics of his day were false prophets under the influence of spirits alienated from God.  In other words, there were both evil and good spirits, and we should test the spirits, 1 John 4:1-3.  Some Gnostics, who followed Cerinthus, believed that Jesus was not in the spirit form until he was baptized by John the Baptist and then right before he died on the cross.

But John was a Gnostic in the sense that he believed that you must unify with God.  John believed that God must be in you, 1 John 4:4, and living in you, 1 John 4:12.  He stated, “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit,” John 4:13.  And John explains that it is important to have God inside you, giving you confidence and driving out any fear we might have on judgment day, 1 John 17-18.  In other words, fear could be disastrous for us in the afterlife, so if we have God inside us, we will lose much of that fear.

John also apparently believed that God’s creation was a closed universe, so that God and Jesus existed before the universe was created, John 17:5 and 17:24.  The creation must have occurred outside our universe, meaning that it has a boundary that separates it from God’s universe.  This comports with the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy, which states that mass and energy cannot be created nor destroyed within our closed universe.  Creation must occur outside the perimeter of our universe.  And God’s universe is outside and separate from our universe.  Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:36.

John’s Book of Revelation is perhaps the most intriguing of his works.  If you asked twenty theologians to analyze the meanings, you would hear twenty different interpretations.  However, it is still worthwhile examining the passages.  For example, Jesus said that he was “the Alpha and the Omega,” in Revelation 1:8, meaning that he is the beginning and the end or “the First and the Last,” in Revelation 2:8.  This seems to indicate a closed universe with a beginning and an end.

Does that mean that God will destroy the entire universe?  Does that mean that we will no longer be conscious or aware?  The end of our worldly bodies is something we expect anyway.  The end of the universe is something altogether different.  If God can create our universe outside of its boundaries, He can also end it from outside.  But does that mean that after God destroys the universe that we will no longer be thinking?  Unfortunately, it seems we will not be that fortunate.

A Roman poet, Cornelius Gallus, wrote in the first century B.C., “Worse than any wound is the wish to die and yet not be able to do so.”  Revelation describes the end of times when God will select only 144,000 people to be protected from the torture and agony that is the future.  The remaining people “will seek death, but will not find it; they will want to die, but death will elude them,” Revelation 9:6.  The 144,000 are described as having God’s name on their foreheads in Revelation 14:1, which because of John’s Gnostic leanings may have meant that these citizens had God inside their thoughts and were one with God.

As mentioned in 1 John 4:1, we should test the spirits because some are evil.  Revelation describes evil spirits working to forge forces to fight in the final battle of Armageddon, Revelation 16:13-16.  Revelation does not offer any peace for people unless they unite with God.  Those who oppose God like Satan will be relegated to a fiery lake where they will be tormented for eternity, Revelation 20:10.  These may be allegorical references to torture forever within our own thoughts.  We may torture ourselves more than God ever would.  Nobody knows for certain except the Creator, who also holds the power of Destroyer.  If we were in that fiery lake, we might beg Him to destroy us and put us out of our misery, but apparently that does not happen.

At the conclusion of Revelation, Jesus mentions the Omega or ending again and then describes a new world which is outside the old universe (Alpha and Omega) in Revelation 22:13-15.  It is logical that in order to join Jesus and God in their world, you have to unite with them and become one.