The Healing of the Nations

The book of Revelation has always bit of a dodgy reputation. Martin Luther though it was bit iffy in the early days of the Reformation, and, as I understand, the Orthodox Church does not allow the book to be read in public worship. The Orthodox might be on to something—as Paul Boyer demonstrates in When Time Shall Be No More more than a few Christians have misinterpreted the book over the ages, often with fatal results.

Still, there's a beauty in this book, in the midst of the plagues.

‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell* with them;
they will be his peoples,*
and God himself will be with them;
4he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
(Revelation 21:1-4)

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life* with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
(Revelation 22: 1-3)

I'm not what Teresa Blythe would call a "closet universalist" --ie, someone who believes that everyone is saved in the end but is afraid to say so. To take that position is to deny free will.

But I'm not sure how to reconcile grace and free will. I can do nothing to earn salvation and cannot presume God's grace in my life, as if it were my possession. It is a gift not a right or a priviledge. But can a gift be refused? If it can't be refused is it a gift? And are we free if we are not free to say "No" to God.

And Blythe won't let me off the hook very easily:

progressive preachers proclaim the universal and unconditional love of a non-violent God and we sit there in the pews remembering biblical edicts about sheep and goats, eternal flames and a scary, exclusive “Lamb’s Book of Life.” Not all of us, mind you. But a lot more than you might figure. Being embarrassed to admit that we don’t have the same confidence in the unconditional love of God, we remain silent.


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