Psalm 148:1–6; Zechariah 10,11; Revelation 20:1–10

Psalm 148:1–6: This is surely one of the grandest psalms of praise that we encounter in Psalms. Where many psalms conclude with “Hallelujah,” this one opens with it. Praising God begins in heaven itself: “Praise the Lord form the heavens/ praise Him from the heights.” (1) At those heights live angels (“messengers”) and God’s armies, which we meet in John’s Revelation: “Praise Him, all His messengers,/ praise Him, all his armies.” (2)

The next verses begin to reprise the Creation story of Genesis, beginning with heaven itself and the celestial objects that represent “up there” to us humans: “Praise Him, sun and moon,/ praise Him, all you stars of light./ Praise Him, utmost heavens,/ and the waters above the heavens.” (3,4) John of Patmos surely was thinking of these verses when he wrote the scene of the heavenly beings worshipping God and the Lamb:  “Let them praise the Lord’s name,/ for He commanded, and they were created. (5)

God’s creative work in heaven transcends time: “And He made them stand forever, for all time.” (6a). Then, in a reminder that God’s creation of heaven is quite separate from his creation of the physical world in which we humans exist, the psalmist says, “He set them a border that could not be crossed.” (6b) Except for various angelic visitations and phenomena such as Elijah being taken up into heaven, and Paul’s brief glimpse of “things that cannot be written down,” this is a pretty impermeable border that is crossed only upon our death–or at the end of history as John describes it. This well-defined border is why I’m suspicious of people who claim to have visited Heaven and returned.

Above all, though, this psalm is worship at its finest. This is praise music that causes the repetitive “praise music” we hear so often to pale in comparison.

 Zechariah 10,11: The opening verse of chapter 10 strikes one as apropos to this time of year and our desire for the driught to end:
Ask rain from the Lord
       in the season of the spring rain,
   from the Lord who makes the storm clouds,
       who gives showers of rain to you,
       the vegetation in the field to everyone. (10:1)

Then, a verse that is the sad reality of a world that does not know Jesus, or worse, is misled by those who claim special knowledge or status, especially cult leaders:
the dreamers tell false dreams,
       and give empty consolation.
   Therefore the people wander like sheep;
       they suffer for lack of a shepherd. (10:2)

It is to these abandoned, wandering people who have sinned so greatly that God relentless promises restoration:
I will bring them back because I have compassion on them,
    and they shall be as though I had not rejected them;
    for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them. (10:6)  

God promises to restore Israel, “Though I scattered them among the nations,/ yet in far countries they shall remember me,/ and they shall rear their children and return.” (10:9) and its pretty easy to see why so many Evangelical believe Zechariah’s promise was answered in 1948 when the Sate of Israel once again came into being. But it is the final verse of this chapter that suggests to me, anyway, that the current secular political reality of Israel is not really the fulfillment of this promise: “I will make them strong in the Lord,/ and they shall walk in his name, says the Lord.” (10:12) This is not to say that there are not many in Israel who indeed follow God, but I’m left with the feeling that Zechariah’s specific promises about have not yet been fulfilled on earth.


Chapter 11 takes on a disturbing apocalyptic tone: “For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of the earth, says the Lord. I will cause them, every one, to fall each into the hand of a neighbor, and each into the hand of the king; and they shall devastate the earth, and I will deliver no one from their hand.” (11:6) In light of all the failed kings of both Judah and Israel, God “became the shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter.” (11:7)  God as shepherd has taken up two shepherd’s crooks: “Favor” and “Unity.”  But in light of ongoing evil before God, the “favor” is broken,”annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples.” (10:10) And later the “Unity” staff is broken, “annulling the family ties between Judah and Israel.” (11:14), Which is exactly what happened as Samaria, the remnants of the northern Kingdom, become estranged from Judea.

In the midst of this passage there is a clear prophecy of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, being betrayed: “So they weighed out as my wages thirty shekels of silver.” (11:12) But the overall theme of this chapter focuses on the tragedy of Judah and Israel being led astray and then destroyed by poor leadership under corrupt kings, the “worthless shepherds” (11:17): “ For I am now raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for the perishing, or seek the wandering, or heal the maimed, or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.” (11:16)

Revelation 20:1–10: John comes to the idea of the Millennium. An angel comes down from heaven and he “seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” (2) Those who were martyred by Rome–“the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus  and for the word of God.” (4) come to life as the “first resurrection.” and “reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (4b). Those who merely died remain dead during this period, and God gives the martyrs special status : “they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years.” (6).

Well, that’s all hunky-dory, but at the Millennium, Satan is released and “will come out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, in order to gather them for battle.” (8) Satan’s army gathers and surrounds “the camp of the saints and the beloved city. ” (9a) [Jerusalem, I presume.] But the battle is short-lived as “fire came down from heaven[b] and consumed them.” (9b)  Satan and his minions are then permanently “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (10)

To say that people have been trying to figure this passage out and place it somewhere in history or at the end of history is an understatement. As is the case of many numbers cited in this book, I tend not to take the 1000 years literally, it simply means a long time. What seems clear to me by reading history is that a literal millennium has not taken place. If it’s to be literal it must lie at the end of history, but I think it’s best to take this period symbolically, which makes me an amillennialist. The key theme is always just below the surface for John: you people may be suffering now, but a glorious reward will come to you at the end of history. And in this passage, particularly for the martyrs.


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