And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm. – Revelation 11:16-19
Today’s passage begins with twenty-four elders on their faces worshiping God and ends with a severe hailstorm. The elders are giving thanks to the Lord God almighty, the One who is and who was, The Alpha and the Omega. They are doing this because God has shown His great power and begun to reign, presumably through things like resurrecting the two prophets in yesterday’s post. The spiritual battle between worlds has been raging for some time now and it is a chaotic and cataclysmic time on earth.
Apparently this is “judgement day”. The time when the dead will be judged and the prophets, and those who revere God’s name, will be rewarded for their efforts in sharing the truth of God. This is an interesting list for sure. Since God is outside of time itself the meaning of “judging the dead” is complicated. We as humans can point to a time when a body dies. What we can’t know, or perhaps understand, is what happens after we die to our souls. Are we then outside time like God? Do we immediately arrive at this “judgement day”? I do not know.
George MacDonald in his 1867 book entitled “Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood,” wrote “They ought to be taught that they have bodies; and that their bodies die; while they themselves live on … that we talk as if we POSSESSED souls, instead of BEING souls.” C.S. Lewis was fond of paraphrasing this quote and the concept with “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” I take the meaning of “judging the dead” to be speaking God relating soul to soul with those whose bodies are no longer their primary dwelling place – they have died. In “Letters to Malcolm,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “At present we tend to think of the soul as somehow ‘inside’ the body. But the glorified body of the resurrection as I conceive it – the sensuous life raised from its death – will be inside the soul.”. This inversion of the secular and the spiritual is something outside our experience and perhaps our understanding.
I find it interesting that the passage is specific about God rewarding those who revere His name “both great and small”. The size of our souls matters. Soul “size” has little to do with the outward appearances of our bodies. It is what is on the inside that ultimately determines our spiritual “size” not the material manifestations of success of this world. If we have an obsession with oblivion then that is we feed and nourish at the expense of our souls.
It is also interesting that God also has special judgment for “those who destroy the earth.” This may be referring to the powers that have been have been unleashed to wreak havoc through meteors and earthquakes, but I also wonder if there is a reminder here that we are meant to protect God’s creation and not destroy it. I am not arguing for placing an unhealthy focus on the environment at the expense of our souls, but rather a healthy respect and desire to protect the beautiful things of this world that God Himself conceptualized and created.
The finally is the opening of God’s temple. An event which is accompanied by all manner of earthly events “flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm”. I am not sure why this display of power is needed, but I am sure it would get the attention of those present. Perhaps this is a tangible demonstration that in the end God does rule both domains, the spiritual and the secular. He has allowed the earth to be ruled by the dark one for a time and that time is now ending. In the end God wins.
Prayer: God help us to remember that it is the size of our soul, and its connection with you, that matters.