Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Great white throne -- final judgement

The Koran portrays the final judgment as a walk over a narrow bridge that arches across the flames of Hell. The Biblical vision is of a pure, gleaming throne, with a personal Judge reviewing the books.
Büyük bayız bir taht ve tahtın üzerinde oturanı gördüm. Yer ve gok O'nun önünden kaçtılır ve yok olup gittiler. Tahtın önünde duran büyük küçük, bütün ölüleri gördüm. Sonra bazı kitaplar aöıldı. Yaşam kitabı denen başka bir kitap daha açıldı. Ölüler, kitaplarda yazıl anlara bakılarak yaptıklarına göre yardılandı.
A few words:
  • büyük -- great, big
  • bayız -- white
  • taht -- throne
  • küçük-- small
  • kitap -- book
Chapter 20 is the one that has spawned all kinds of fanciful speculation. There is a classical word for apocalyptic hysteria, chiliaism. This comes from the Greek word for thousand. Chiliaism is an obsession with an imaginary future, and a lust to make pretty maps of it. The screen against which this imaginary future is projected is the "thousand year reign" mentioned in this chapter. What does it mean? When does it start? How long does it last? How does it end? Well, Hitler dreamed of a "thousand-year Reich." Byzantium lasted around a thousand years. The Hapsburg Catholic dynasty endured for nearly as long, in Europe.

In the Bible, though, it all depends on context. Frequently, "thousand" is a word-picture for "too many to count." If, as Psalm 50 says, God owns "the cattle on a thousand hills," then who owns the beasts on hills 1,001 to n? And Revelation is a book of word pictures. Traditionally, the Church has countenanced three different millenial theories. A wild card popped up 150 years ago, alas, and now bedazzles and dumbfounds many American Protestants. The contenders are:
  • Amillenialism -- we are in the millenium, the time when Jesus is ruling, in a spiritual sense, but evil will be giving us a run for our money all the way 'til the end.
  • Postmillennialism -- we are in the millenium, Jesus is ruling now, and the world will be gradually transformed as Christians are faithful in their works of service.
  • Premillennialism -- things will go from bad to worse, until the other team controls the entire field. At which point comes the end, followed by a literal thousand-year epoch of peace and plenty.
  • Dispensationalism -- we can know in detail the sequence of events that will happen after "the rapture," after we are removed from the scene, and those events have no relevence to us.
The point of this chapter, however, is brutally simple: all of us will face our Maker on the Last Day, and will give an account of what we have done with the lives we were given.

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