A Poem on Revelation 20

A thousand years is longer than
The calendars of mortal men;
When faith beholds a three-year trial,
She hears of Christ’s “A little while.”

The devil can alone be bound
By what is in the Scriptures found,
The preaching of the reign of Him
Who crushed that head that gave us sin.

And by this word shall faith arise,
And when a faithful Christian dies,
He still shall live and judge and reign
While unbelievers dead remain.

The devil can’t deceive the hearts
Of those to whom God faith imparts;
But he will have the shorter days
When itching ears will have their ways.

A thousand years for martyr pain,
Complete their crown, complete their reign;
As we from earth Christ’s praises sing
So from their thrones our anthems ring;

For they are priests and kings with us,
Who claim the LORD our Righteousness
As King, whose all authority
Is preached to set all nations free.

A while will still the beast oppress
All who by grace the faith confess,
And on the beast shall Jezebel
Spew forth works-righteous words of hell.

And those who have not trusted in
What men call good, what God calls sin,
Who have not loved their lives to death
Shall see their victory by faith.

So when the thousand years will end,
And nations to the Liars bend,
And hard around the Church they press,
And earth groans her last great distress,

Then down from heaven fire shall come,
When books uncover all we’ve done,
And in the devil’s lake of pain
Sin, death, and hell will all remain.

But from one book shall sound each name
That in Christ’s blood was cleansed from blame:
So shall on all of God’s elect
The second death have no effect.

About Pastor Mark Preus

Mark Preus is pastor of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and Campus Center in Laramie, WY. He graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne with an M.Div. in 2008 and then obtained an M.A. in Classics at the University of KS in 2010. He was ordained at Faith Lutheran Church, Wylie, TX in August of 2010. He has been married to Becky since 2005. God has graciously given them four daughters and five sons. Pr. Preus loves to read and write poetry, especially Lutheran hymns, and talk theology with anybody who has an ear to listen. He also likes coffee too much and tobacco too much, as well as microbrew beer. He can also prove with reasonable certainty that Paul Gerhardt wrote most of his hymns while smoking and drinking beer.

You can find more of Pr. Preus's writings at his blog.


A Poem on Revelation 20 — 15 Comments

  1. Pastor Preus,
    Thanks for another excellent poem. Btw, in reading the short bio above, you say “that Gerhardt wrote most of his hymns while smoking and drinking beer.” Can you please cite the text(s)?

  2. @wineonthevines #1

    Thank you, Sir or Madam.

    I don’t remember the texts. I’m awful about that, which is why I will never get a doctorate.

    I read a biography on Gerhardt which noted a few things.

    1st. Gerhardt smoked a pipe. He smoked it so much that it scandalized his Saxon parishioners, who thought it might be sinful. This makes it very dubious that he would have written his poetry without smoking his pipe.

    2nd. Gerhardt drank beer. His former parish in Berlin gave him two casks of beer to bring with him to his new home. It was so much beer that his new congregation complained to the superintendent, fearing that Gerhardt was planning on opening his own tavern because they didn’t pay him enough.

    3rd. Luther himself wanted to write more hymns, but complained the too many things kept him from it. Writing hymns was considered a leisurely activity. Most leisure is enjoyed by pastors in the evening hours, when they drink beer and smoke their pipes.

    It is therefore more than 90% certain that Paul Gerhardt wrote most, if not all of his hymns while smoking his pipe and drinking good beer.

    Did I convince you? : )

  3. I can accept that. Btw, I don’t smoke a pipe but I’m sold on acid blondie cigars!

  4. I’m still waiting on the book of your poetry – and by the way, I’m not getting any younger! 🙂

  5. Pastor Preus,

    Excellent. Thanks. And even though you can’t cite sources, I really appreciate your knowledge.

    Elizabeth Peters

  6. I suppose critiquing a Preus is “not done” because you get the whole swarm after you, but really! The littlest emperor is/has been in a shocking state of undress here.

    I haven’t read such stuff since I wrote it myself, in high school.
    Subsequently, I had a good teacher in college English 101!

    I will look forward to your doing better, Mark!

    Reading Kipling’s poems might be a good idea?
    Or any number of other people who weren’t born (or dead) “yesterday”.

    Unless you crave the dreaded “alt” in your credits, try to complete a hymn in 5 or 6 verses, max. If you don’t, someone will delight in “omitting” verses. [One illiterate hymn committee, (I kid you not!) had us sing about Cain killing Abel, and skipped enough so the next verse sung was the equivalent of ‘go and do thou likewise’! (The Pastor hadn’t paid enough attention to catch it either, but he’s a whole ‘nother story!)]

  7. Dear Helen,

    I appreciate your criticism, and love to hear it. I will try to keep things shorter in the future. This is a poem, though, and not a hymn. Don’t worry, I won’t make anyone sing it! : )

  8. It’s not a bad effort, pretty good overall. I think it has potential. But you bit off a rather large bite to chew. Revelation itself is such an intricate and beautifully crafted poem form that it is very dicey attempting to write poetry based on it. You are, essentially, attempting to write a poem based on a poem. Even such a great standby as “Holy, Holy, Holy,” while a very good good hymn has never struck me as great poetry and has always seemed to be rather bland in comparison with the chapter of Revelation it is mostly based upon.

    If you are going to attempt poetry on revelation, I would love to see one on Revelation 14:1-5. Structurally, liturgically and (to the extent that one can put Revelation into any kind of timeline – a rather difficult task) chronologically those verses represent the crux of the book as well as the moment of crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

    I think some of your themes from the 1000 years and the contrast/conflict between between earth and heaven could be worked in to illuminate the power of that crucifixion image in chapter 14.

  9. Thanks, Matthew. I wrote the poem after studying the chapter. I agree that writing poetry on poetry is difficult. I hope that helped explain some basic themes of the chapter.

    Holy, Holy, Holy is, I must protest, an awful hymn, though it has some good turns. Explain what these words mean:

    Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
    Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
    Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
    Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.

  10. @Pr. Mark Preus #11

    OK, well, actually, that is the most important verse in the hymn because without it the hymn would be just one more boring praise song.

    First of all, I want to point out that the verses themselves move from praise on earth “early in the morning our praise shall rise to thee” through the praise of heaven (vs 2) and ends with the praise in eternity. It is the same flow as the book of Revelation itself using some of the images of Revelation, especially in vs 2.

    Vs 3, the one you asked about, provides the counterweight to the praise. Although we praise God as Holy, Holy, Holy, we are, nevertheless, unable to observe that Glory this side of the grave because of sin. This is actually a good verse to use as jumping off point that the only way we can see God is hidden in the shroud of the means He has given us: the Word, the Water of Baptism, and the Body and Blood of Communion.

    I find it interesting that Hillsong put a version of Holy Holy Holy on youtube and left out the middle two verses. Verse two is probably the verse that is most directly a biblical quote. And verse 3 is the verse that declares sinful man can not see the glory that the song is sings about. I would suspect, if they thought about it, many of the big praise churches and people like Benny Hinn and those involved in the NAR movement would find this verse highly objectionable as they are constantly trying to make God’s glory visible NOW.

    It is, however, this verse that I like far about the other three as it’s stark contrast provides the contrast to the worldly churches’ desire to make God’s glory and the worldly churches’ attempts to emphasize how “we just praise your name, Oh God.”

    Of course, what I don’t like about the hymn is that there is no mention of Christ or His crucifixion. I would dearly have liked another verse the depicted the Holiness of God as most evident on the cross – although one could argue that the cross is hinted at in the words “though the darkness hide Thee.”

  11. Hi, Matthew,

    Look at the words more closely. Though the darkness hide Thee…only Thou art holy. Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see, only Thou art holy.

    It doesn’t make sense. Though introduces and adversative clause. God being holy is not adverse to the darkness hiding him or the eye of sinful man not seeing him. It is precisely because God is holy that man many not see his glory and the darkness hides him from us.

    Of course what is meant is that we know God is holy even though we can’t see him, i.e. our not being able to see him is not evidence for his not being holy. But that’s a consideration that the Scriptures don’t talk about. 19th Century rationalist Christians trying to hold onto the mystery of the Trinity consider such things.

    Grammar matters.

  12. @Pr. Mark Preus #13

    Your mistake is assuming “though” is always adversative. “Though” is not always adversative. It can be restrictive, which is how it functions in this case. I agree it is a bit clumsy to modern ears but it is not grammatically incorrect.

    In any case, I believe my initial comment still stands. Writing poems and hymns based on Revelation is a tricky matter indeed and very few have done it well. Though references to images from revelation do appear well done in some hymns.

  13. @Mathew Andersen #14

    I appreciate the sentiment and I agree that it is difficult.

    I’ve never heard of though being used as a restrictive and don’t understand how this would make sense at all. Could you please point me to a grammar or other use where though is used in this manner?

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