Then I saw a great white throne, and him who sat upon it–From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.
And I saw the dead–great and small–standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life.
And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.
And the sea gave up the dead in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.
This is the second death–the lake of fire–And if any one’s name was not found written in the book of life he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Phew! (I must be determined to have some argument here!)
But I have been receiving hints on this question for some time, starting with Wink and the intractability of institutional Policies & Personalities, digging up some wonderful stuff by William Stringfellow, who had a somewhat different bestiary of Powers & Principalities–and a slightly different conception of them. “Paul”–that is, the man who wrote ‘Ephesians’–gives us only a hint–And what we see of Palestinian demons in their native habitat, being exorcized by Jesus, is quite a puzzle to a Modern (or “Post-modern,” or even to a “Postpost-modern” (mine, for example?) mind.
Okay, a “demon” is something like a subroutine!
That is, it’s something like a program a human mind can execute, much as a computer follows a structure of machine instructions.
Since no one has commented yet, let me go into more detail
There are many possible starting points; I like Stephen Gaskin’s way of saying that we are all One: that we are all, at some level we don’t typically notice, telepathic.
Jung spoke of a “Collective Unconscious”–the sort of mental process people sometimes do without conscious attention, ie in adding two numbers or in locking a door on leaving work–happening equally automatically, without the supervision of any one individual mind, but dealing with vaster questions, whether for a tribe or for a nation or for all sentient beings. (Jung wasn’t concerned about postulating any physical structure to carry out such computations, nor need we be. Something connects us, at different levels of coherence, benevolence, universality for different people, much as our physical environment is dense with radio signals, while any one radio receiver will be tuned into one of them at a time. & by analogy, the highest manifestation of God we can relate to would be making a sort of vast background hum connecting it all–to speak muy figuratively, but not allegorically about this!)
So one could think of “a spirit” as a subroutine running on the Collective Unconscious.
The original meaning of “daemon,” as we all know, was morally indeterminant. For an ancient Greek this might be anything from a pixie to a god, benevolent or merely dangerous. The first Christians, being Jews and hostile to small-g gods, started with the assumption that the spirits the Greeks knew must be evil beings, rivals for the devotion rightly due to God. But angels, in the Jewish scheme of things, were formerly imagined as much the same sort of entity, whether they were the unruly angels of nations hostile to Israel, or angels properly engaged in their God-given duties.
We first find stories of people possessed by “demons”–Where? In 1st Century Judea, among a pious Jewish population suppressed under the Hellenized power of Rome. Those foreign devils get into native Jews, who suffer conflict because they can neither accept the ways of the Gentiles nor entirely fend them off. And Jesus, somehow, heals the confusion, sending the foreign spirits packing! By his sheer personal authority, in the gospel accounts–but I think those writers were as mystified by how he did it as we today are mystified by the stories themselves!
So what would it mean to torment “the Devil” forever? How does one torment a subroutine, anyhow?
“The Devil” is described as “the god of This World.” What world? The world of physical fears & desires, of force & strategems for grabbing what one wants & enjoying all one can get of it. For a dinosaur, this is a perfectly adequate religion. For a human being, not so good!
But that dinosaur-level is the level of moral-ethical development we find in nation-states, corporations, and religious institutions. An institution under the rule of Christ, as Stringfellow imagined, would take no thought for its own perpetuation, merely seek to carry out the will of God even at the risk of bankrupcy! What we see driving a typical human institution is otherwise.
So if that “whatever it takes” spirit were to be displaced by a different spirit, a spirit of loving our brother _as_ ourself… as he is, like it or not!…
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom judgment was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and to the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or on their hands. They came to life, and reigned with Christ 1000 years.
The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him 1000 years.
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the world–that is, Gog and Magog–to gather them for battle; their number is as the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad Earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from Heaven and consumed them. And the Devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and the will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
I loaned out my Walter Wink (who had a highly enlightening chapter on this very question) so I’ll need to wing it…
But another source tells me that “a satan” was a sort of political undercover cop for the Persian Empire. Basically, the word translates into English, where we first find it in Job, as “The Accuser.” His role there is one of ferreting out disloyalty to God, using entrapment & abuse in his efforts, but with some restraint by God, who knows Job is innocent. Does Job? Where did this “satan” get his anonymous tip? Who fingered Job in the first place? I think it was Job himself, who had not been suffering and wasn’t clear in his own mind whether he was “really” devoted to God, or just to the rewards he’d been receiving.
In other words, this accuser seems to depend on our fears for his influence. If we’re very young, and haven’t had anything too dreadful happen to us, we are paradoxically afraid of the possibility, so much so that we almost “need” some suffering, just as reassurance that it will not destroy us. Hence, I imagine, the appeal of scarey movies, to those who like them.
Anyway, Satan in the ‘Old’ Testament plays the role of God’s enforcer, an angel delegated to probing for & punishing human sinfulness. As we read toward & into the Christian scriptures there’s more a sense that this is a spirit exceeding its authority, a prosecutor who as Jesus says, “Always was a liar.” That is, the guilt we personify as this spirit is not, and never was, truly deserved.
So here we have this element of our psyche chained up, and restrained by satanic-type torment, for 1000 years, whereupon “he must be loosed for a little while.”
Hmmmm…. extremely “Hmmmm!”
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain.
And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is The Devil, called Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while.
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great!”
And I saw the beast and the kings of the Earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse and against his army.
And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur. And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.
Then I saw Heaven opened, and behold: A white horse!
He who sat upon it was called faithful and true, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
His eyes flamed like fire, and on his head were many diadems.
Written upon him was a name known to none but himself.
He is clad in a robe drenched in blood.
He was called The Word of God.
And the armies of Heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, clean and shining.
From his mouth there went a sharp sword with which to smite the nations; for he it is who shall rule them with an iron rod, and tread the winepress of the wrath and retribution of God the sovereign Lord. On his robe and on his thigh there was written the name: “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
Again I heard what sounded like a vast crowd, like the noise of rushing water and deep roars of thunder, and they cried: “Hallelujah! The Lord our God, sovereign over all, has entered on his reign!
“Exult and shout for joy and do him homage, for the wedding-day of the Lamb has come! His bride has made herself ready, and for her dress she has been given fine linen, clean and shining.” (Now the fine linen signifies the righteous deeds of God’s people.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: ‘Happy are those who are invited to the wedding-supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the very words of God.!
At this I fell at his knees to worship him. But he said to me, “No, not that! I am but a fellow-servant with you and your brothers who bear testimony to Jesus. It is God you must worship. Those who bear testimony to Jesus are inspired like the prophets.”