Tag Archives: Revelation 21-22

Great Stories Have Great Endings 4

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This is part 4 of our series in Revelation 21-22.  You may also like to read parts one, two or three.

4) It is a Place of Rest:

When you read these chapters there is a real sense of safety and security.  It is a picture of a world at peace and at rest.  In the first creation account, the goal of creation was rest. Not a sleeping type of rest, per se, but a rich, beautiful enjoyment of God’s creation. At the end of the story we see the rest which was lost restored.  We are set free to once again enjoy and marvel in the beauty and splendour of the Creator and of his creation.

In 21v1 John notes that there is no longer any sea.  Firstly, before all the surfers faint, remember this is all picture language.  These images are not meant (in large) to show us what the new creation will look like.  The intention of the picture language is to show us what the new creation will BE like.

So in this instance, for the people, of the ancient world the sea commonly represent a place of fear, of uncertainty and of chaos.  In the new creation it is not necessarily the sea that will be absent but fear, uncertainty and chaos certainly will be absent.  It will be a world of peace, of safety, of rest and of order.  It will be a return to the character of Eden.

Central to these chapters are the image of the New Jerusalem, the city of God, the bride of Christ as a massive secure city with giant walls and huge gates (21 v 15-21).  The imagery itself is beautiful but when we remember that this was written in a day where invading armies, vengeance killings and marauding bandits were still very much a reality, then the idea of this huge, impenetrable city was a beautiful, comforting image.  The new creation will be a place of safety and refuge, no longer will there be any danger of invasion, of plunder, of slavery, of rape, of vengeance, or of wanton destruction.  No longer will there be a need to anxiously guard your property or your family, to hide from evil-doers or to fear the unknown.

But it gets better, the gates of this huge city will never be shut!  City gates were shut at night!  Night time, even in our days of electricity, is a time of danger, of fear and of uncertainty.  The gates of the New Jerusalem will never be shut because there will be no more night.  The new creation will not be a place of fear, of violence, of danger.

All these will be gone and those who practice those things will not be welcome in the city (21 v 27).  It is a beautiful and paradoxical picture of this imposing, massive city- impenetrable.  But yet its gates stand wide open…  As if to give a powerful visual aid to Jesus’ words “To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.” (21 v 6)

Photo Credit: Olivander

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Great Stories Have Great Endings 3

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This is part 23of the series looking at Revelation 21-22

You may also want to read Part One and Part Two.

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

Great Stories Have Great Endings 1

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Great stories have great endings. In fact I think it is the ending that defines the story…

In the urban spirituality of the city there is a somewhat accepted spiritual epithet that “it is not the destination that matters but the journey.”  This sounds really spiritual but in reality it is, quite simply, a load of cobblers (always wanted to write that, it just sounds so Dickensian).  The ending is that which gives shape and substance to the entire the story.

If the ending is tragic then the story is a tragedy, despite the moments of joy and laughter that may be found in the journey.  If the ending is happy then the story is a comedy (as defined by Buechner) despite the moments of sadness and tears which it may take to bring the story to the required happy ending.  The ending is not simply that which ends the story, it is that which gives shape, substance and even meaning to the entire story.

This is equally true for the Bible story as for any other story.

The biblical ending defines, shapes and gives meaning and significance to the biblical story. If the ending is rubbish or trite then the story is a waste of time. Certainly not something to base your life on.

To use some big words for a minute our ESCHATOLOGY defines our MISSIOLOGY which defines our ECCLESIOLOGY (HT to Alan Hirsch whom I ripped off slightly).  To translate our doctrine of the end must defines our mission which must shape our doctrine of church.

I have been reading, teaching and meditating recently on the end of the Bible story (Revelation 21-22).  A few things stood out for me:

1) God does it

This chapter is full of God’s work.  This glorious picture of the new heavens and the new earth- it is all God’s doing.  Only He can do. Only He will do it.  And as a result all the glory can only go to Him (21:2-5).

And the Lamb is at the centre of all that he does (21:9, 22, 23, 27; 22:1, 3).  Who is this Lamb? It is the the Lamb who was slain (5:6, 9).  At the centre of the New Creation is Jesus who died, for our sins (the Lamb who was slain).  The New Creation will forever be shaped by the king who died for his people.

What particularly struck me is that in Revelation 19 we have just had this picture of Jesus on the white horse, with eyes like blazing fire. A sword coming out of his mouth, He is crowned with many crowns, and the name King of Kings is written on his robe and on his thigh.   He comes to judge the nations and to rule them an iron sceptre.  It is a great and terrifying picture of a powerful and mighty king come in judgement

I think I have always assumed that it is this King who will be the centre of our worship in the new creation.  But when we come to Revelation 21-22 who is at the centre of the new creation, the Lamb who was slain!  Without reading too much into the picture language of Revelation, it is the pattern of the Lamb which is will shape the pattern of life in the new creation.

photo credit:  Olivander