Relevant Passages: Revelation 20-22
Leading Question: As the book of Revelation brings us to the end of the Great Controversy, what allows the believer to stand in eager expectation of the return rather than in fear and trembling?
The official study guide focuses more on the final judgment in Revelation 20 than on the restoration of all things good in Revelation 21-22. But the final message is clear: forever and ever God’s kingdom will be secure from evil.
The binding of Satan (Rev. 20:1-3). What does the text of Revelation tell us about the end of evil and the Evil One? By the end of chapter 20, Satan and all the enemies of God’s goodness are gone. But for free-will theology, an important point lurks in 20:4, a time for asking questions.
Crucial to the Adventist understanding of the Great Controversy – embedded as it is in a free-will theology – is that God will allow us to ask our questions. As the NKJV translates 20:4 “Judgment was given to them.” That means a time to ask our questions and affirm the goodness and justice of God in his management of the universe. In the Arminian/Wesleyan/free will approach to theology, God must win the heart, not just win the battle! God cannot coerce.
By contrast, Calvinists, emphasizing God’s sovereignty, see no need for God to win anyone. He is the master of history and determines human destinies with no input from anyone. A little poem by the Calvinist Douglas Wilson, puts that grim perspective clearly in view. I suspect that even Wilson winces a bit at this perspective as the poem has disappeared from the second edition of his book:
Eternity and time confound
The buckling minds of mortal men,
Who rail at God as though He were
A lesser god, or one of them.
They hate discriminating love,
And drag it into human courts
To try to crucify the cross.
“Will you try me? our Lord retorts.
Though pearls may fall beneath the swine
They do not therefore cease to be,
And trampling won’t deface the shine
Decreed before eternity.
So hold your peace, rebellious pot,
The Lord is God – and you are not.
Douglas Wilson, Easy Chairs, Hard Words (San Diego: Oakcross Publications. 1991), 189 [omitted from second edition].
The earth made new (Rev. 21- 22). The last two chapters of our Bible speak of a glorious time of renewal when there is scarcely a trace of the old battle. Good news! The classic Adventist description of the end of the controversy is found in the final paragraphs of Ellen White’s, The Great Controversy. It is a buoyant way to conclude this set of lessons.
“There the redeemed shall know, even as also they are known. The loves and sympathies which God Himself has planted in the soul shall there find truest and sweetest exercise. The pure communion with holy beings, the harmonious social life with the blessed angels and with the faithful ones of all ages who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, the sacred ties that bind together ‘the whole family in heaven and earth’ (Ephesians 3:15) – these help to constitute the happiness of the redeemed.
There, immortal minds will contemplate with never-failing delight the wonders of creative power, the mysteries of redeeming love. There will be no cruel, deceiving foe to tempt to forgetfulness of God. Every faculty will be developed, every capacity increased. The acquirement of knowledge will not weary the mind or exhaust the energies. There the grandest enterprises may be carried forward, the loftiest aspirations reached, the highest ambitions realized; and still there will arise new heights to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend, fresh objects to call forth the powers of mind and soul and body.
All the treasures of the universe will be open to the study of God’s redeemed. Unfettered by mortality, they wing their tireless flight to worlds afar – worlds that thrilled with sorrow at the spectacle of human woe and rang with songs of gladness at the tidings of a ransomed soul. With unutterable delight the children of earth enter into the joy and the wisdom of unfallen beings. They share the treasures of knowledge and understanding gained through ages upon ages in contemplation of God’s handiwork. With undimmed vision they gaze upon the glory of creation – suns and stars and systems, all in their appointed order circling the throne of Deity. Upon all things, from the least to the greatest, the Creator’s name is written, and in all are the riches of His power displayed.
And the years of eternity, as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence, and happiness increase. The more men learn of God, the greater will be their admiration of His character. As Jesus opens before them the riches of redemption and the amazing achievements in the great controversy with Satan, the hearts of the ransomed thrill with more fervent devotion, and with more rapturous joy they sweep the harps of gold; and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of voices unite to swell the mighty chorus of praise.
‘And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.’ Revelation 5:13.
The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.”