Courage to trust all will be well
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be let out for a little while. Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years. When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, in order to gather them for battle; they are as numerous as the sands of the sea. They marched up over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from heaven and consumed them. And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. — Revelation 20:1–10
My New Testament class was going to discuss Revelation. I was looking forward to it as it was one book in the Bible rarely expounded on in the church of my childhood. I was disappointed, though, when an important church meeting called me away from class. When I arrived at the church, the pastor, seeing my disappointment, joked that as a Presbyterian I wasn’t going to miss much. “We don’t spend too much time in Revelation,” he said. We Presbyterians haven’t spent much time in Revelation and after reading this entry in the daily lectionary schedule, I can see why. I am more comfortable talking about people walking in Advent darkness than about the battle between good and evil. Yet here we are, and here is Advent good news. Really.
First, I have to ask for you to not take literally the thousand years mentioned in the Scripture. Both Augustine and John Calvin viewed this cosmic event as something happening now. OK, I know that doesn’t sound like good news, but stay with me. What John is sharing with us is a picture of triumph and the people who have battled in life now being blessed, resurrected, safe, secure — whole. This passage is an Advent one for it underscores once again that the birth of Jesus wasn’t just so we have a sentimental holiday to celebrate. Jesus was born to save. Jesus also came to equip us with how to battle evil in this life — how to stand up and speak up, learn to love more deeply and forgive more freely. Sure, the battle is a fierce one, but in the end we will persevere. All those bearing battle scars will be made whole. It seems these days there is a battle raging in our world. This year has been a rough one. Too many deaths from too many viruses named COVID-19, racial injustice and poverty. Yet we are called to find the courage to fight the good fight and be part of making the world a better place. There is nothing to fear for Revelation is telling us we are on the winning team — and team is the key word. We are called to work together in making the world a fair and just one for all. Howard Thurman knew this when he wrote, “There are areas of the common life in which we must do our part in order that the very fabric of society may be maintained against collapse and disintegration.” And in case you find your courage waning, remember this: “Do not fear” is the Advent message spoken by God’s angels back then to a frightened Mary, a confused Joseph and rejected shepherds. “Do not fear” is being whispered to all of us now.
God, battle between good and evil seems to be escalating as each day there is news of a yet another injustice, another health threat, another natural disaster, another innocent death. I pray boldly for courage to face the day. I pray for courage to calm my shaking hand so that I can keep on lighting candles that will chase away the darkness. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Donna Frischknecht Jackson