Suffering and Glory

By Jonathan Cortina
In Formed
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Three weeks ago my wife and I put down our sweet Border Collie, Maverick.

It has been the darkest day of my life thus far and it was the hardest decision I have ever made. Putting him down reminded me of the sting of death. I hate death.

Like me, maybe you’ve been acquainted with death of a loved one. Maybe you’ve experienced some type of suffering because of the broken world we live in, because of your own sin, or because of the sins of others. It’s safe to say that most of us will live life and face some sort of struggle or turmoil associated with suffering and death—this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

That’s why I get really excited talking about Revelation 21 because of what the new world offers, but before chapter 21 is chapter 20—I’m stating the obvious here but there’s a hidden gem that’s not so hidden there.

If you’re anything like me, I’ve been intimidated by the book of Revelation since I’ve been a believer for several different reasons. I grew up with a “Left Behind” understanding of the book of Revelation, so I experienced a lot of fear if I explored any of it. The book is full of symbols, numbers, and imagery that seemed so daunting to me, so I felt very intimidated by approaching it. And as someone who really likes to study the Bible, I like to have a pretty good grasp on theology in different areas, yet when it came to eschatology (the study of end times) it always felt like trying to understand the end times events or finding a position to hold was an impossible undertaking!

I mean, where do I even begin?! Do I understand for whom the original audience the book was written and the figurative and literal meanings that it’s filled with? Are these past, present, and/or future events? What’s the rapture all about? Am I an amillennialist, premillennialist, or postmillennialist? I didn’t even know those words existed until a year ago and am only barely beginning to understand what they mean. I guess you could say that I was a panmillennialist, someone that doesn’t necessarily know much about Revelation or the end times but says, “it’ll all pan out.” So I didn’t feel the need to explore the book.

I realized that the reasons and excuses I made to not face the book of Revelation were rooted in fear, and that’s never a good reason to avoid something. I loved how Barry explained that, “Revelation is not meant to induce fear, but to help conquer it.” It’s important as followers of Jesus that we not avoid the realities of the book of Revelation out of ignorance or fear because it is meant to show us the beauty of Jesus and conform us to his image.

I must confess, I didn’t really begin the undertaking to try and wrap my mind around the book of Revelation until this last month, and that’s mostly because I needed to do so for a class at DTS. Even so, I don’t think I’ll understand every single thing or most of the things in the book, but I’m no longer letting my limitations of understanding stopping me from receiving the special blessing that Revelation 1:3 promises,

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near,”

and I’m pushing forward to see the beauty and understand Revelation as much as I can.

Though I’ve stayed away from Revelation for the majority of my life, I did become very acquainted with chapter 21, one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible because of the culminating events when all is made new—something I have held close to my heart for the last five years. And as I’ve become a bit more familiar with Revelation, chapter 20 has been something that has recently caught my eye because of the 1000 year reign of Jesus, the binding of Satan, and the Great White Throne.

I could compare the different views on the 1000 year reign of Jesus and explain my premillennial position on how I think that reign is literal (I made a whole tik tok about it with Christina Perry’s “A thousand years” song). I could also try to shed some light for you on the binding of Satan and then him being loosed again before he’s bound again for good and put to death. However, ntegrity keeps me from doing that because I’m still in my journey of understanding these things myself.

But that doesn’t mean that God still doesn’t reveal things to us and we shouldn’t still pay attention.

Peter warns believers in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Yet John, the writer of Revelation, clearly tells us the power that Jesus holds over Satan. Though our enemy is constantly opposing us and the work of God in our lives and this earth, we believe in One who holds the keys to bind Satan. The 1000 years and the Great White Throne are written about to show us that Jesus has greater power than any enemy. Here’s the hidden gem that’s not so hidden: the end of chapter 20 shows us the end of Satan and death—they are put to death. This is the ultimate victory over every suffering caused by them.

I hate death. God hates death too. And He will one day put it to death, and what a glorious day that will be.

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