The longest time out

 
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The basketball game had gone on for an eternity—at least that’s how it felt to me on the court. My limbs were leaden, sweat dripped from my hair into my eyes, every step hurt and the basketball seemed to weigh a ton. We raced from end to end, defending one moment, trying to score the next. It was the final quarter of one of the toughest games of my life. Even though my team was down the bottom of the rankings, we played as though every game was a championship game and this was our last game of the round.

High school basketball can be brutal.

Then the whistle blew, and the referee made a T with his hands, indicating that one of the coaches had called a time out. I breathed a sigh of relief and jogged over to sit on my team’s bench. Someone handed me a bottle of water and I gulped it down gratefully. Time out meant I could look at the scoreboard and see how we were doing. It meant I could finally rest from the strain of the game. I glanced up at the score and groaned. We were way behind; I didn’t know how we could possibly win. I was just so tired!

When I talk to people lately, it seems like a lot of them are tired. Are you tired?

People are tired of the relentless tide of bad news on social media. Tired of the constant political bickering. Tired of working too long and sleeping too little. Tired of hearing about sickness, starvation and death. Tired of the manifest unfairness of the world.

How long can this go on? Doesn’t it make you want to say enough?

The Bible tells us there will b2e a time when we do get to stop; when everything stops—when the Referee will call “time out!” and all of creation will come to a halt. There are a couple of big pictures the Bible gives us about this time.

Intervention

The referee in this case is Jesus when He returns to Earth and intervenes in human history. This intervention is known as the second coming. Revelation 19 depicts the event in symbolic language. It pictures a rider on a white horse who is the Word of God—that’s a giveaway because John 1 calls Jesus the Word of God. He is called Faithful and True. At last someone has come who will not betray or hurt us; who will stay true to us. He is shown coming with a sword and an army, and He comes to strike down the evil ones of this world who oppress and kill. He puts an end to the wicked, to the warmongers and to those who rule over the world, hoarding its wealth (Revelation 18,19). He has come to say Stop! Enough!

As much as we strive to improve our world, the Bible shows it will take someone intervening to fix its problems, because, despite humanity’s best efforts, the world doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Our technology is improving, but so is the technology of war. Medicine makes startling advances, but there is always the next virus around the corner to cause a global panic. We need help from the outside, and we are told that not only does Jesus want to help, but He will come to save those who have called on His name (see Romans 10:13).

The Bible says that then something incredible happens. Those living at that time will be caught up into the air, and those who have died waiting for Jesus will wake from the sleep of death and rise up as well. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 pictures it like this: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”

That’s a time out whistle!

Time out

A “time out” is the next big picture the Bible gives us. A time out particularly for Satan.

We are told that during this time, that ancient serpent called Satan, the accuser, will be chained up in some way. This is often understood as being a metaphor for Satan’s predicament: at that time the wicked who were destroyed when Jesus returned to earth to collect His people are in the sleep of death—the Bible says they won’t be brought back to life until 1000 years later (see Revelation 20:5). Those who are God’s have been lifted from the earth to be with Jesus. The earth will be still and quiet for the first time since its beginning. Satan’s predicament is that he has no-one to harm, no-one to tempt, no-one to lure away from God. Everyone who is with God is safe . . . forever.

The Bible says that Jesus will gather God’s people to Himself and take them back to be with Him always (John 14:1–3). All those who suffered and even died because they believed in God will be treated like royalty. Those with Jesus will reign with Him and be priests of God (Revelation 20:6), and that will go on for 1000 years.

This place is what most would describe as heaven. Finally united with God, there is an end to pain and death, an end to hunger and disease. Finally, we can stop worrying. According to Revelation 20 this time will last for 1000 years—it’s referred to in some church circles as the millennium.

Finally, we can get some rest and look around to assess the state of the game.

Transparency 

During these 1000 years, the Bible pictures people sitting on thrones (Revelation 20:4) and having authority to judge, and those who suffered and died for believing in Jesus are honoured and blessed. But who is being judged? Paul mentions in his writing that “the saints will judge the world” (1 Corinthians 6:2). This seems to indicate that they will be looking at the entire world of people—all those who have ever lived—to be sure that God has made the right decisions about their fate.

But it is more than that. The judgement is a time of complete transparency on the part of God. The books will all be open for those in heaven to look at, to make sure the Referee has been acting according to the rules. That’s a remarkable thought: that the God of the universe is willing to share and let what He has done go on trial with humans as the judges. I can imagine that would take 1000 years!

End game 

Pacific Press—GoodSalt

Finally, the “time out” ends. All those who were on thrones are satisfied and the millennium is over. The second resurrection happens, when the dead who had rejected God’s love are brought back to life, much to Satan’s delight. He now has people to tempt and mislead again. There is a picture at the end of Revelation 20 of a great final battle, the innumerable wicked led by Satan surrounding the camp of God’s people who have returned to earth. But, once again, God intervenes, and fire comes down to finally destroy Satan and the wicked.

A great white throne is set up for God and in this one moment in history every single person who ever lived will be standing on the earth before the throne of God (Revelation 20:11). God will be seen to have done the right thing all along.

From my bench at that basketball game I could see that our team was about to lose. There was very little I could do to change the outcome. Maybe you are looking at the scoreboard of your life and are worried as well. But the Bible promises that out of seeming defeat will come victory, because Jesus has done what was needed to save us. Jesus will dramatically intervene in human history and God will be transparent about what He has done. And, finally, He will bring an end to all our suffering.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for that day!

 

Justin Bone supports and trains pastors and congregations around Victoria for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He is passionate about helping people understand the Bible better.