This is part 23of the series looking at Revelation 21-22
3) The New Creation is both physical and spiritual
There exists a massive assumption in Western Christianity that the purpose of being a Christian is simply to “go to heaven when you die.” That is, that we are in some sense, “souls in transit” waiting to be free of this earth. This earth is at best an irrelevance, at worst a dark, gloomy, evil place.
This spiritual-physical dualism is simply not biblical. The world God made and declared good was a physical world. The fall was physical – eating fruit, realisation of nakedness, attempting to make clothes etc. The story of redemption through the people of Israel is very much physical. Jesus’ incarnation and his atoning death was physical. His resurrection was physical.
God’s plan is not to rescue us from this prison of the physical. His plan was always that the spiritual and the physical would be two parts of a whole. Much like heaven and earth, which we see being finally joined together into one new creation in these chapters. The sweep of the Bible story is not how God is doing away with this earth but how he is restoring all things to their original intention, which was both PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL.
Most of this imagery found in this chapter is physical imagery – eating , drinking, a city, a river, a throne, the city coming down to earth, wiping away tears, a city that can be measured, the tree, roads, walls, gates. Even the things that are not there are physical – no sea, no darkness, no tears, no temple, no lamps. It may be argued that most of these images must be understood in Old Testament picture language, with which I agree. But still the pictures that are used are of the redeeming or perfection of physical images rather than some sort of escape from the physical.
NT Wright says: “Heaven and earth… are not after all poles apart, needing to be separated for ever… No, they are different radically different; but they are made for each other in the same way as male and female. And when they finally come together, it will be cause for rejoicing in the same way that a wedding is a creational sign that God’s project is going forwards; that opposite poles within creation are made for union; not competition…”
Photo Credit: Olivander