The End of the Story, Part III
As a child of the 80s I saw a lot of weird things — I mean really strange. Hair took unnatural shapes, music was doused in synthesizers, and fashion that seemed like a good idea at the time now hides in photo albums that one hopes never sees the light of social media. One of the novelties of the era I was subjected to came in the form of a film entitled The NeverEnding Story.
In that story, one part of the protagonist’s quest includes passing through a trial involving a mirror. Some of you reading may be thinking, “Amen, I know that trial personally — every morning.” However, in this case, this mirror has the unique ability to show the viewer more than physical appearance — it reveals one's true self. When the hero’s friend remarks that the mirror trial shouldn’t be too hard, a wizened sage exclaims, "Oh, that's what everyone thinks! But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming!"1
I’m not sure I want that mirror; I’d probably hide it up in the attic under a blanket, although it might be fun to hang in the hallway just to see how company reacted.
Truth can cripple people — it can even kill them. Writing about the end of the story, Paul pens, “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thess. 2:8). Paul isn’t speaking of heavenly halitosis, but alludes to the word of truth being spoken which, according to Scripture, is “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). In other words, at Jesus’ coming, there’s nowhere to hide, no more “looking through a glass darkly.”
At Jesus' return, the full weight of reality will be revealed in the unfiltered presence of God, something the Bible describes as a “consuming fire.” The final book of the Bible, Revelation (Greek apocalypses) literally means to unveil something previously hidden. The book unveils Jesus Christ and speaks of His literal revelation to the world. The book describes the wicked crying out for rocks to fall on them rather than face the presence of the Savior. The book points towards the fulfillment of Jesus’ words that “everything done in secret will be brought into the light” (Luke 8:17). Those who have chosen to identify with shadow, even though Jesus has already done that for them on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21), will be unmade in presence of God.
The New Testament says, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Some people, by their dark practices and choices, allow their identity as a child of God to be taken over by darkness — to become a work, a living testimony, to the power of evil.
That power cannot hold together in God’s presence. Ellen White comments, “The glory of His countenance, which to the righteous is life, will be to the wicked a consuming fire. Because of love rejected, grace despised, the sinner will be destroyed.”2
Jesus calls Himself the “Light,” and His forerunner, John, calls Him the “Light of the World.” When we choose to follow Jesus He somehow makes US the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). What if, in the end, God isn’t a passive, or an overreactive, monster. What if in the final execution of judgment God is simply God? What if the end of the story for the wicked is God finally bringing an end to humanity’s game of hide and seek, begun so long ago in Eden? Ready or not, here He comes. In the meantime, for those who respond to His Spirit, He gives us His Spirit, grace and revelation to make us ready to meet Him?
The Adventist theology of hell is a gift to the world because it’s about a good ending, not fiery punishment. It’s entering the reality and beauty of God’s presence — motivated by love instead of fear — a desire to dwell in a world free from the works of the Liar with the One who is able “to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever” (Jude 1:24–25). May the Author and Finisher of our faith prepare us to enjoy the end of the story.