Prior to this passage John has dramatized, often in vivid and fantastical ways, a cosmic conflict. It is the conflict between God and forces arrayed against God – Satan, strange creatures, socio-political regimes, larger-than-life individuals, and regular people. Through it all threads the greatest story of all creation, of all history, both cosmic and personal. This is the story of God’s saving power, triumphing over evil and its devastating effects through the Lamb who was slain and who was raised – Jesus, our savior and lord.
John begins in today’s passage to conclude the story with the final defeat. This is not the defeat of all that is godly and good, as the circumstances of life might lead us to expect, but the final defeat of all forces rebelling against God and assaulting the people God loves. Here at the end of chapter 20 of Revelation, John stands on the brink of splendor. It is a splendor he begins to depict in chapter 21. It is a sublime depiction of God’s transformation of all things into a new heaven and earth, beyond all degradation and devastation.
It is no great insight to observe that human history has been and continues to be plagued with evil and its devastations, including conflict, suffering, and death. All too well we know evil in our self and in our relationships. All too much we experience conflict, suffering, and death between people, communities, and nations. How utterly bleak life sometimes seems!
Yet, as John recorded spectacularly in this book of Revelation, evil is not the final word. Throughout human history, and especially uniquely and ultimately in Jesus, God speaks and enacts the last word, foretelling life and joy without conflict, suffering, and death. In the end – God’s end – all evil and evils are overcome. And in God’s end is our beginning, the transformation of your life and mine, of all creation and history, starting even now. May God write us into his story! May we live in his story with faith, hope, and love, more and more every day to the end. For the end is known, and it is a glorious beginning!