Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
What a great way to start verse 6: ‘It is done’. A completion… what began with ‘in the beginning’ has a ‘in the end’ conclusion. The idea that God began meticulously dealing with the chaos, through a process of shapes and filling them, to commission humanity to continue the work, and then at the end it all burns up is both crazy and so against the story of Scripture. The seven day creation account is parallel to the 7 days of preparation for the final coming of God into the OT Temple… here in this chapter we read of the coming of God into his/her Temple – what began as a possibility in Genesis is a definite in Revelation; a God coming to a couple in the evening into a piece of creation now comes to (redeemed) humanity permanently in the whole of creation. ‘It is done’, followed by the two ways of tying the start to the finish – alpha and omega, beginning and end. Such a way of presenting it underlines that we are dealing with one story from Genesis to Revelation, and once we deviate from the story, simply taking verses out of their place in the story we will end up with some major deviations. Hence, we have to develop some form of narratival understanding of Scripture rather than textual adherence.
The goal for humanity is termed the eschaton, from which we get our word eschatology; there is another word for ‘end’ – telos; this is not used for our destiny, only God is (in verse 6) the telos. A little speculation but maybe the eschaton is not the telos, is not the final, final, final state. The creative God might just continue to create? Speculative, for sure.
The translation I am using says that those who overcome (a consistent theme in the book) will be ‘my children’; the text actually has ‘my son’. I think here is surely an echo to Jesus as ‘my beloved Son’, and before that to Israel as ‘my son’. ‘In Christ’ is so important in the NT; I consider it gets us round (actually I consider it straightens us up!) common concepts of ‘election’. Jesus is the elect one… if we are in Christ we are elect in him and hence from the foundation of the world. This is not arbitrary election of some (and damnation of others). Jesus is the elect one and the location for our election. If I am in him I am elect.
There is a second death in Revelation, prepared for the devil and his angels, and here we do not have a Universalist hope – a sidenote there are enough ambiguities in Scripture that prevent us being the one who sits on the throne and draws a line of ‘in / out’. Assuming this is speaking of a future for some it seems to me that the future is not one of eternal punishing (something ongoing) but of eternal punishment (a judgement passed after which there is no more life). I hold that conditional immortality – only God has immortality (‘It is he alone who has immortality’ 1 Tim. 6:16) and that immortality is given to those that he gives it to, as the immortality of the soul is not found in Scripture; post-Eden there is a barrier to the tree of life ‘so that they may not live forever’, etc… – is what fits best here. The fire and sulphur is a reference to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. All that went in the fire was destroyed, the end was final, this was a second death after which there is no more life.
That then is my take on it… As for God’s take on it?