The goal of Bible study is to think God’s thoughts after Him and to better understand the one who loves us…both of these aims have the ultimate goal of deepening our relationship with God. Whenever our reading of the Scriptures needs some focused studying to fully understand what God is communicating (as we have been doing with Revelation 21:7), the best next step is to zoom out and add our new understanding to the surrounding context of verses.
Then He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life. The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But the cowards, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars – their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
The focus of the paragraph turns on one simple word – but.
“But” is a critical term when studying Scripture. It lets you know that a contrast is taking place in the text, and these contrasts are important to our understanding.
On the one hand, we have those who did freely drink from the water of life, and from within them, those who conquer. On the other hand are those who have rejected God and lived life counter to His plan for humanity. In contrast to the conquerors who inherit in the new Jerusalem, those who have rejected God have their share (other translations – their place, their portion, or their part) eternally separated from God in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur…which the previous context of Revelation 20:10-15 indicates is the eternal destiny of Satan and those who follow him.
This is a serious contrast of eternal consequences.
Thinking about the original recipients of Revelation, the terms God uses – the cowards, the faithless, etc – would have been descriptive of those who were persecuting the first century believers. While this contrast does give comfort that God will make everything right in the end, there is another application, one for the here and now:
Remember, we are called to be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world by holding firm to the word of life (Philippians 2:15-16). After all, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
For those around us, eternal destiny hangs in the balance.