Nope…not a political post. Saving that one for next week.
Over at B-Mac‘s place, we find the latest installment in his ever-popular “Q & R” (that’s “response”, because Brian doesn’t give “answers”, answers imply that someone is wrong). From a “reader of A New Kind of Christianity” comes the following:
“…I know Revelation is a different sort of text and difficult to interpret. But I am wondering about Revelation 21. What do you do with the verses about a lake of burning sulfur that the cowardly, vile, liars etc go to in the second death? This just sounds so much like the “theos” form of God.
I loved what you said about 1)giving myself permission to not like a verse and then 2) to see if there is another way this could be understood. I am stuck with this one though…
I want to scratch it away.”
This is a perfectly legitimate question.
Notice what Brian does next…
“First, I think you mean Rev. 20:11-15 (and 21:27)…”
This is quite the assumption that Brian makes, but is really no different than Brian’s typical exegetical skills (of course, he’s an English teacher, so he has no idea about theology-or so his normal line goes-) he takes what someone has implicitly said (or wrote) and says “I think you mean…” Brian does this frequently with scripture, as when he talks about Paul not being familiar with gender, or homosexuality, or any of the other things Brian disagrees with, but I digress.
Now, how do we know that the person behind the “Q” was referring to Revelation 21 and not 20? Let’s look closely at his question.
a- The person behind the “Q” specifically mentions “a lake of burning sulfur”, “the cowardly”, “vile”, “liars” and “the second death”. When we look at the verses that he meant to talk about, (you know, Brian’s a mindreader and all), this would be Revelation 20:11-15…we do indeed find the dead being judged, but nowhere, and I mean NOWHERE in Revelation 20:11-15 do we find the words, “the cowardly”, “vile”, “liars”. What we do see mentioned is the “lake of fire” and “the second death”.
b- If we skip ahead to chapter 21, specifically verses 7 & 8, guess what words we find. Yep, you guessed it…”a lake of burning sulfur”, “the cowardly”, “vile”, “liars” and “the second death.”
We can infer from this text that in chapter 20, we find the setup to the judgement process, with chapter 21 giving us the specifics. Now, I’m no English major but I would call this “foreshadowing.” Perhaps the guy with the MA in English could give me the correct term.
Let’s continue, Brian tells us what Revelation 20 (again, the “Q” wasn’t about that, so B-Mac doesn’t care, because he has a point to make) doesn’t say:
“I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their beliefs and religious affiliation. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, atheists, homosexuals, and liberals were thrown into the lake of fire … Christians were spared.” Nothing like that at all! The judgment occurs according to works …’what they had done.'”
I agree with Brian. It does NOT say those things. But…who cares…B-Mac’s got a straw man to set up:
“So what some Christians commonly say about judgment is quite different from what this text itself says.”
I know that’s just what I said last week in youth group…“And the dead were judged according to their beliefs and religious affiliation. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, atheists, homosexuals, and liberals were thrown into the lake of fire … Christians were spared.” Actually, no I didn’t. I’ve never said that. Or heard it said. Except when B-Mac tells me that I’ve heard it said.
Brian continues to tell us what the text means (which is funny for a non-theologian/English major who doesn’t give “A’s”):
“Interestingly, when “the devil who had deceived them” is thrown into the “lake of fire and sulphur” in 20:10, along with “the beast and the false prophet,” it says “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” When human beings are judged in 20:11-15, it says they are plunged into “the second death.” Nothing about torment, etc., is mentioned beyond being judged.”
Follow along here. The beast and false prophet? Thrown into the fire for “day and night forever and ever.” The lake of fire that is specifically called “the second death”. The people not found in the book of life? Also thrown into the fire. But relax! It’s not torment. (B-Mac really said that…don’t believe me?):
“When human beings are judged in 20:11-15, it says they are plunged into “the second death.” Nothing about torment, etc., is mentioned beyond being judged.”
Are there two lakes of fire? One for “torment” and one for…roasting marshmallows? Let’s answer the guys “Q”…shall we? I believe that it’s along the lines of, “Who is going into the fire?”
In context, the new heaven and new earth are joined. God’s on the throne and the long war is over. Jesus says, “He who overcomes will inherit all this…but the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice the magic arts, the idolaters and al liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:7-8).
The people above are the same ones mentioned in Revelation 20:15. That’s the specific list. And, they were judged “according to what they had done”..lie, murder…etc.
B-Mac continues with the claim that Revelation was written as an analogy for what was going to happen to the Roman Empire. Why analogy? B-Mac has an answer for that, “In literature of the oppressed, an oppressed group tells the truth about the powers that be, but they do it in a “slant” or indirect way so that they won’t be arrested, tortured, and killed for doing so.”
B-Mac takes his mind-reading skills to a whole new level by tell us what John really meant; his dream was either not real or just an allegory.
“And I think the point of Revelation is that the powerful people who did the killing will ultimately be judged as the villains of history, and the powerless people who got killed for their witness against the beastly systems will be judged the heroes in God’s eyes.”
Because Brian knows what God really meant.