“Darkness” by Lord Byron

When I read this poem by Byron, it reminds me of the apocalyptic vision John shares with us is his Book of Revelation.

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bring sun was extinguish’d, and the
stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the
moonless air;

Morn came and went—and came, and
brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the
dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light;
And they did live by watchfires—and the

thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were
consum’d.

And men were gather’d round their
blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the
eye
Of the volcanoes, and their mountain-
torch:
A fearful hope was all the world
contain’d;

Forests were set on fire—but hour by
hour
They fell and faded—and the crackling
trunks
Extinguish’d with a crash—and all was
black.

The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; lay
down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some
did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands,
and smil’d;

And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look’d
up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the
dust,
And gnash’d their teeth and howl’d; the
wild birds shriek’d
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest
brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers
crawl’d
And twin’d themselves among the
multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for
food,
And War, which for a moment was no
more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was
bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was
left;

All earth was but one thought—and that
was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as
their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were
devour’d,
Even dogs assail’d their masters, all save
one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish’d men at
bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping
dead
Lur’d their lank jaws; himself sought out
no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer’d not with a caress—he
died.

The crowd was famish’d by degrees; but
two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap’d a mass of holy
things
For an unholy usage; they rak’d up,
And shivering scrap’d with their cold
skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted
up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other’s aspects—saw, and shriek’d,
and died—
Even of their mutual hideousness they
died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose
brow
Famine had written Friend. The world was
void,
The populous and the powerful was a
lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless,
lifeless—
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.

The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr’d within their silent
depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal; as
they dropp’d
They slept on the abyss without a surge

The waves were dead; the tides were in
their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir’d
before;
The winds were wither’d in the stagnant
air,
And the clouds perish’d;
Darkness had

no need
Of aid from them—She was the
Universe.

©1816 Lord Byron

The Gospel: Part Three – The Consummation of all Things

Consummation, from a biblical perspective, deals with eschatology. The part of theology concerned with death, judgment and the final destiny of the soul and of all of mankind. It is commonly referred to as the end of the world, or the “end times.” Of course, most modern fiction regarding this topic does not deal with the end of time, but rather with the end of a certain period of time; the end of life as it is now, and the beginning of a new period of time. Most books or films on this subject depict violent disruption or destruction of the world. Christian eschatologies show the end times as the consummation or perfection of God’s creation of the world.

The Book of Revelation is at the core of Christian eschatology. It shows God in control as life moves toward the consummation of a great goal in accordance with the purposes of His will. Man may hinder, deflect, or delay God’s plans, but he cannot destroy them. Righteousness ultimately will win out. Evil will be utterly destroyed. The God of Revelation is the Creator. All who gather around the throne proclaim, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things.” (Revelation 4:11) In Revelation 14:7, the angel says, “Fear God and give Him glory, for the hour of His judgment has come. Worship Him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (NIV) He made us. He is with His people. He is guiding the course of human events, and His cause will ultimately be victorious.

The climax of the ages-long conflict between Christ and Satan is depicted in those scenes portraying the woman versus the dragon, the Lamb versus the beast, and Jerusalem versus Babylon. In the climax, there will be only two classes of people: those who receive the seal of God and those who receive the mark of the beast. God’s victory will give the church great assurance. Believers will be comforted and encouraged as they recall how God has upheld His faithful throughout the centuries. He has been the guard and the Great Protector of those in the church who have been loyal and true throughout the eons. He still holds the stars in His right hand. He is still the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

The last battle with be the most spectacular ever seen. Satan and his demons, indeed all his minions, will gather as an army. His opponent? The KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS. According to Isaiah 25:9, “In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.'” (NIV) The complete work of Christ is nothing less than to redeem the entire creation from the effects of sin. His purpose will not be accomplished until He has ushered in the great new earth; until Paradise Lost has become Paradise Regained. It is through a clear understanding of the doctrine of the new earth in order that we fully see God’s redemptive program in cosmic proportions. God will not be satisfied until the entire universe has been purged of all the results of man’s Fall.

Old Testament prophesies speak of a glorious future for the earth. We are told that, at some point, the earth will become far more productive and spectacular than we can possibly imagine. The Old Testament views this future redemption as a restoration of life in creation. God picked the Israelites – His chosen people, the apple of His eye – to show the world how He intended it all to work. He gave the Jews specific instructions, shaping every part of their public and private lives. The Law was meant to govern their environment, their economy, their families, their society, their politics, their worship, their everything. As the Israelites submitted to the Law of God, they would show the nations how life was supposed to go. Israel was going to demonstrate to the world how walking as God’s image-bearers under explicit acknowledgment of His sovereignty and majesty, and in complete rhythm with God’s design, worked.

For those of us who know God’s Word, it is obvious Israel did not do so well in this regard. The Old Testament chronicles  their perfecting the art of failure. As they failed time and time again, the prophets among them looked forward to the day when Israel would return to their land,  repent of their sin, and live according to God’s will. In this way, Israel was meant to be a light to all nations. The prophets would speak, often at great length, about all nations being drawn into God’s kingdom until it encompassed the whole earth.  Escape from earth is not the goal. Old Testament Scripture views the destiny of mankind as inseparably linked with life on earth. Jesus affirms this view of salvation. The announcement of Him being God’s kingdom at hand must be placed in this very context.

Jesus was not trying to change Israel’s understanding of a new heaven and a new earth. Rather, the Gospel ministry of Jesus and his disciples shows Jesus operating in the framework of an Old Testament expectation of a new creation. His miraculous deeds demonstrate His healing of a broken world, revealing that the Gospel of the kingdom includes the eradication of disease, poverty, the usurping of death, and the ushering in of a new order. Jesus inaugurated this new kingdom in His first coming, but He hasn’t consummated it yet. We are living today in the tension of this already-not-yet world where Jesus has purchased reconciliation, but consummation still lies ahead. We get a glimpse in Matthew 19:28 when Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (NIV)

Paul’s understanding is also interconnected with the Old Testament’s forecast of a new creation and Jesus’ affirmation. In Romans 8:19-22, Paul relates that even the non-human aspects of God’s creation share in the destiny of God’s chosen people. The ground is cursed because of one man’s disobedience. It groans. It has been subjected to futility. This is not to say that the earth is alive in a pantheistic or paganistic manner, but only that Paul’s metaphorical language refers to the reality that the earth’s brokenness is bound up with man’s sin, and therefore the solution to the earth’s problems is bound up with man’s redemption through Christ.

It is common every day, all over the globe, to see man is suffering at the hands of extreme weather, wildfires, pestilence, famine, drought, evildoers, rampant sinfulness, sexual identity confusion, violence, rape, murder, envy, strife, drug and alcohol addiction, jealousy, theft, and any number of horrific conditions. All of creation groans in anticipation of its own liberation. Jesus is the answer to deliverance of the entirety of creation from the wages of sin. The end goal of redemption is a resurrected body on a new – resurrected – earth. Isaiah 65:17 tells us, “For behold, I create a new heaven and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” [Italics mine.] I love this verse. Having spent nearly forty years in active addiction, and having served three years in state prison, I have seen firsthand the horror of sin. Isaiah prompts me, however, to look forward and envision the day that God will create a new heaven and a new earth, and all the former things – pain, sorrow, difficulty, rebellion, hatred, deliberate infliction of emotional pain will no longer be remembered at all.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:1-2)

This is the ultimate fruit of the Gospel mission, and it is undoubtedly what Jesus was praying for when He prayed that God’s kingdom would come in such a way that God’s will would be done perfectly on earth as it is done in heaven. Jesus Himself was the answer to this prayer, inaugurating the kingdom through His earthly ministry and testifying that people who place their faith in Him alone will enjoy the blessings of the kingdom’s future consummation, when all the crooked ways are finally made straight.