Friday, 1 December 2023 The Rev’d Angela Rigby .

Revelation 20:11-15 

Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them.  And 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 works, as recorded in the books.  And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done.  Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire;  and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.


I have always associated fire and torment with Hell – mostly due to childhood cartoons and this lake of fire in Revelation. (But see also Luke 16:19-31 and Mark 9:43.)  Growing up in Tennessee I heard many sermons about this lake of fire, followed by altar calls asking, “Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?”  Each time I was afraid and would go forward for prayer ‘just in case.’  That guilt and shame can wrap people in their own “hell” – feeling isolated, unlovable and separated from God.  Maybe you have heard similar sermons?

What if instead the lake of fire is a tool used by God to cleanse God’s creation from everything that has corrupted it?  Like anti-bac spray cleans a counter top of germs, except the lake is 100% effective?  What if the lake is a metaphor for God bringing justice, righteousness, and kindness back?

Previously in Revelation, God judged the living.  Here, God judges the dead.  God is God over all.  Even dying is not an escape from God’s faithful and true judgement.  Nobody wants to end up in the lake of fire with Death and Hades, but we do want justice.  We want God to consider our pain and suffering and to punish those who harm us.  We want the hurt caused by “Babylon” – aka Babylonian Empire, Persian, Greek, Roman, [insert your own Empires here], racism, apartheid, patriarchy, slavery, corporate greed, apathy over the climate crisis, homophobia and transphobia – to be healed by God’s justice.

Revelation offers us this image of the final destruction of all the things that lead to death, the place where the dead ‘live’ (Hades) and even Death itself.  The lake of fire consumes all that worked against God’s purposes of life and ‘life to the full’ for God’s creation.  The destruction (or cleansing) happens for the purpose of new life.  Revelation 21 begins: “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth’…” 

What if instead of being afraid, the writer of Revelation calls us to marvel in awe and in hope for what God is doing and will do?

A Prayer

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
God – help me to be amazed by how you will reclaim,
cleanse and restore Your world.
Let me be found singing and dancing
at Your banquet in Your new Heaven and Earth. 

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