There’s a moment at the end of Return of the King, after Sauron’s
tower falls and the ring is destroyed, when all his forces are reduced
to ash and the sun shines through the dark clouds. It’s a moment of
total victory arriving on the cusp of cataclysmic defeat. That’s the
mood at the end of chapter 11. In 11.1-14, the two witnesses just about
lost everything before being resurrected and bringing glory to God. In
fact, it looked like they had lost everything, until everything was
reversed. But then we find ourselves at the end of this chapter,
which—incidentally—is also the end of part one in the Revelation.
The book tells the same story twice. Chapters 1-11 tell the story of
God eradicating evil and healing the world, and so do chapters 12-22.
The end of chapter 11 is really the end of the whole story—God
reconciles the world to himself, the “kingdom of this world has become
the kingdom of our Lord”, the forces of evil are utterly defeated, and
heaven is opened up to the world. Where previously God was identified as
“Who Is, Who Was, and Who Is to Come”, now God is only “Who Is and Who
Was.” Why? Because the future has now arrived in the present. We don’t
need to wait for God to come. He’s here! He has dragged the future into
this moment and invaded earth with the kinetic reality of his presence.
Heaven has colonized earth, and the two halves of God’s Creation have
now been reunited into one whole.
That’s how the story ends. It ends like that in chapter 11, and then
is told all over again in chapters 12-22 only to end like that once more
(from a very different vantage point) in chapter 22. The apocalypse
doesn’t show us that God destroys the earth. Nope. Instead, God
“destroys the destroyers of the earth” (11.18) so that the earth itself
can be healed and all humanity can be brought back into right
relationship with their Creator.
Isn’t that good news?