“I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.”
Revelations 20:12a (NIV)
This past Sunday Wendy and I were among our local gathering of Jesus’ followers and the question was asked, “What brings you joy?” Wendy’s answer was without hesitation: a Barnes & Noble Bookstore. Actually, that’s a joy we both share even though she is a much bigger reader than I am.
I’ve always loved books. From junior high school through college I always worked or volunteered in the school library. I also worked for the same bookstore chain from high school through college. One of the things I love to do to pass time when I’m on the road is to go to a bookstore. It might be Barnes & Noble or Half Price Books or a local hole-in-the-wall used bookstore.
I find today’s chapter to be one of the most unusual in the entire Great Story because it packs so much into one chapter and leaves me as a reader wanting so much more detail than what John provides. His vision of what’s to come approaches the reader rapid-fire. An angel chains Satan and imprisons the evil one in the abyss for a thousand years. During that thousand years, Jesus and the resurrected martyrs of the earlier tribulation reign on the earth. This is commonly referred to as “the Millenium.” This climactic event is described in just three short verses.
Then Satan is released from the abyss and proceeds to deceive the nations to wage a final battle against Jesus. Satan and his followers are defeated and thrown into a lake of burning sulfur once-and-for-all. This is described in just four verses.
Then there is what the Great Story has repeatedly referred to as “Judgment Day” or just “The Day.” This epic event gets described in just five verses.
Over my forty-plus years of studying the Great Story, the three-verse mention of the Millenium gets, by far, the most conversation, controversy, and close scrutiny. In fact, my normal study sources all had lengthy breakdowns of the major three theological viewpoints regarding the apocalyptic Millenium.
What interested me, however, were the books. During Jesus’ ministry, He made a couple of direct statements regarding Judgment Day:
“…there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” Matthew 10:26 (NIV)
“Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” Luke 12:1-3 (NIV)
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37 (NIV)
In his book Imagine Heaven, John Burke explores Near Death Experiences (NDE) in which humans have physically died (no heartbeat, no breath, no brain activity), had after-life experiences, and then returned from death. It’s a fascinating read as there are eerily common NDE experiences around the globe that have been scientifically researched by universities and academics. Interestingly enough, one of the common experiences that NDErs cite is the books.
A man name Gary died in a car accident with his sister:
“[An] angel came through the gate, and he was checking the pages of a book that he was carrying. he then nodded to the giant angel, confirming that I may enter into the city. Suddenly, there in front of me stood my best friend, John [who had been decapitated but was now whole]. His eyes sparkled with life as we embraced…
“John told me he had many wonderful things to show me. John took me into a very large building that looked like a library. The walls were solid gold and sparkled with a dazzling display of light that loomed up high to a domed ceiling. I saw hundreds and thousands of books…Many angels were there reading the contents of the books. John explained to me that these books contain a record of every person’s life that has ever been born, throughout all history. Everything we do here on earth is recorded in these books – good or bad – everything.”
A teenager drowned in a pool accident:
“[My angels] did not like my response of, ‘I don’t want to go back down there; it is painful.’ ‘You must! Your mission is not yet complete!’ We communicated telepathically; no lips or mouth movements; all thoughts. Moment by moment you discover how quickly you are gaining knowledge; and how easy it is to accept. My three angels sought permission from above to show me something…What looked like a HUGE four-foot thick book, of LIFE. MY Life. Just as my life had passed before my eyes when I was being drowned, I was now being shown my future life.”
The psalmist wrote: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16
In the quiet this morning, I find myself pondering what it is that captures our attention. The exact meaning of the Millenial reign of Christ has stirred debate among scholars and believers since John’s Revelations were first read around 100 AD. Interpretations have varied widely through the centuries. It is literal? Is it metaphorical? Is it figurative?
As I meditated on this and the thorough interpretations covered in my study sources, I found myself shrugging my shoulders and once again humbly embracing my ignorance. I’m not sure I really care that much. Knowing the answer doesn’t really affect me personally now nor in eternity.
What does affect me personally are the books. Whether my name is written in the Book of Life is of utmost importance according to the Great Story. So does the book that the psalmist refers to along with the NDErs who’ve seen their own: the book that records my entire life, my actions, my relationships, and every word I’ve ever spoken.
As I end this, another work week, and as I go about my day, I’m mindful of what is written in the books.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.