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.