The Text of the chapter fifteen is in process, and will be posted soon. Please check back!
After a sobering word on hell yesterday, it is only right to follow up with a hopeful testimony. Today's passage is about "those who have conquered the beast" of wickedness, and they do so with a new song. Those who triumph over their own demons are the only ones who can lead the world out of its drunken stupor of folly. As the risen Christ spoke earlier in the Book, "the one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death." 'Hell' can be understood as the second death, but it need not be postmortem torment, for our sources of anguish are found in our regrets, resentments, and regressions. The first death is what we all experience: pain, suffering, heartache, loss, despair, and anxiety. When one constantly lives trapped in that pain from the past, that is the second death over which the conquerors can sing their new song. Notice that it is not the will or the works of those who conquer that get them past their struggles. It is the music they make, which is described as "the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb." What the writer John is telling us is that this is no new movement that is taking place, but it is an ancient Path which we can walk in order to conquer. Moses and Jesus spoke to differing audiences and circumstances, but they were singing the same song.
Nevertheless, the song being sung here is in fact a new song. Though there is nothing new under the sun, we still need new songs telling us the same old truths. Here is the refrain, which is a major theme in the Book: "Who will not revere and glorify Your Name? For You alone are unique!" God alone is unique, so all we need to do is join in on the chorus, add our harmonies, insert some new lyrics, and create another refrain. Indeed, this is a universal Message for all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations. As we near the end, it is good to remember that all ends well. As Julian of Norwich proclaimed, "All shall be well; all shall be well; in all manner of things, shall be well." Now that is a song worthy to be sung! When we reach the end of the end, we know that "all nations will come and worship You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed!" Have no fear, my friends. All means all, and anyone who decides to shut themselves out in darkness will eventually be overcome by a Great Light which will compel them to join in on the song!
So let us never count anyone out. Our human categorizations are meaningless in the face of God. Yes, there are many trials, tribulations, and temptations for all of us to overcome. There are individual barriers and societal delusions which need to be destroyed. No one has cornered the market on Truth, and so we need all of the wisdom we can muster in order to conquer the plagues that threaten us. Compassion will empower us to see past the lies that we tell ourselves about Reality. No one is outside of the grasp of mercy. No one is ever shut out and not given another chance. Death has no sting, it has lost all of its power, and all we have left is Love. Nothing can separate us from it! The Orthodox Church teaches that heaven and hell are only our response to the Presence of God, which permeates and penetrates all things now and forever. Those who are acclimated to Love, Light, and Life will experience this Presence as bliss, while those who cling to despair, darkness, and death will find it to be quite hellish. What kind of person(s) are we choosing to become?