Revelation 22 – Maranatha!

Read Revelation 22

John’s vision of the New Heaven and New Earth, as well as the New Jerusalem, is glamorous and exciting; it is truly fun to imagine what life will be like in this time.  Not much is truly known about this time and what it will be like but Scripture indicates that this will be a physical existence with our renewed bodies, those that are renewed in the likeness of Christ’s resurrected body.  What we see here is that, though the New Jerusalem has everything and contains the wholeness and fullness of eternal life, there may be life and living beyond its walls.  Indeed, while we get the sense that everything we need will find its source and life through the presence of God, there may be things to do in this eternal life.  We are not given an indication that we will simply be laying on clouds, plucking our harps.  Indeed our life may also be a perfect fulfillment of the life we are called to live now, worshiping God through the use of the gifts, skills, hobbies, and interests that we have in a new and redeemed way.

All of this, as John describes it, is “Eden restored”.  This is an important image of creation being restored to its original state.  It’s hard to say exactly what this means, but likely it does not mean that we’ll all be living in a garden like Genesis 1 and 2, but rather than all creation is back in the state that God created it to be.  This might be best seen in the image of the lion laying with the lamb; it marks the end of striving, of predator/prey relationships, and a life in which life itself is sustained by God.  This is seen in both the centrality of the river of the water of life, which flows directly from the throne of God down the middle of the “great street”, and also the availability and abundance of the tree of life, something that had been blocked and made unavailable since the fall.  Eternity will be in this perfected state, all creation living in harmony and in the presence of God.

The final words of Revelation reflect, once again, the urgency of the Great Commission: “Behold, I am coming soon!”  I think we often set these words aside, preferring to look at the magnificent splendor of eternity of paying attention to the many images that jump off the pages of John’s Revelation.  However, Jesus’ words here are important; the time is near for Jesus’ return, we are in the “last days” now.  We cannot seal up these words or waste our time in frivolous arguments about peripheral issues that don’t really matter.

As we close our study of Revelation and the whole of the New Testament, the same truth of God’s continuing work in creation remains and we much join Him in this!  The angel bids John, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll because the time is near.”  We too should take these words to heart as we join with the angels and the spirit who say together, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

“May the Grace of the Lord be with God’s people.  Amen.”



Revelation 21 – All Things New

Read Revelation 21

“See I am doing a new thing…” God speaks to His people through the prophet Isaiah.  That phrase reverberates throughout the end of the book of Revelation seeing it’s true fulfillment as John sees the New Heaven and New Earth.  In fact, much of what is happening here takes its cue from the words of the prophets, especially Isaiah as one who envisions “the day of the Lord” and sees that vision unfold throughout His writing.  God has been at work since the very beginning to redeem and restore all creation to its perfect, natural, created state.

John has just witnessed the final fall of Satan, the beast, the false prophet, and all those who oppose God, and the final inauguration of eternity has begun.  This is truly the moment that all of God’s people have been waiting for and the description of the eternal realm could not be more exciting and enticing!

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

These words contain within them so much beauty, hope, and excitement, and they are full of references that span the Old and New Testament, drawing on imagery from practically every period of Biblical history to describe what is happening.  Allusions to the Tabernacle and the Temple, words of hope from the prophets, and references to the completed and full work of Jesus Christ from Paul are all contained in these short but powerful verses.  John is describing the true fulfillment of God’s redemptive work throughout history.

In this restored world, everything will exist in abundance for those who are God’s children.  All life will draw its sustenance from God and from the Lamb, finding its light and nourishment from them.  The Living Water, that is Jesus Himself, will sustain everything “at no cost,” pointing to a contrast to life as we know it now in which food and nourishment come with toil, sweat, and much work.

John then sees the city of God, Jerusalem restored, coming down to rest on the mountain of God.  This too draws its imagery from the Old Testament, first at Sinai, and then in the prophets who all envision God’s dwelling to be on the “highest of mountains.”  Isaiah, in the second chapter of His book, says this:

In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,  “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lordto the temple of the God of Jacob.  He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”  The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.  They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

John not only sees this mountain but also the city of God descending down onto it perfectly adorned and beautiful.  Again, this is a vision of the true fulfillment of God’s redemptive work as accomplished in Jesus Christ and culminating here at the end of time.  The city itself, however beautiful, does not shine with her own glory, though, but rather with the glory of God.  This too is a testament to God’s completed work.

The New Jerusalem is packed with imagery.  John finds it to be a perfect square, certainly not an accident, measuring 12,000 stadia, a number that is familiar and represents the fact that it contains the fulness of the people of God.  Having 12 gates is certainly not an accident either, representing a way in for all of the people of God from every direction and never closing for them either revealing that the people will always have access to and be in the presence of God.  Twelve foundations for the wall, representing the 12 Apostles is also not accidental and perhaps is representative of the Church, or more likely the Gospel message that the Apostles were charged with, as being the both barrier and protection; one cannot enter the city without receiving the Gospel message and those within it are protected by it.

Seeing the foundations of the walls closer, John records that they are also made with precious stones that correspond to the stones that were worn in the ephod of the High Priest’s clothing.  This is a beautiful picture too of the transfer of the priestly office away from a High Priest and being given to the entire city, the whole of the people of God.  It is a bridge between the priestly order of the Old Testament and the role of the entire people of God a “Kingdom of priests,” as Scripture says.

Finally, John recognizes that there is no Temple present in the city.  This is an important revelation about the nature of God’s dwelling in this renewed world.  God’s throne is in the city, and His dwelling place is among the people.  No longer is a special building needed for worship because God is with them in perfect reconciliation and relationship.  John points out that “all nations will walk by its light,” meaning that everyone will be worshipping God and living in perfect union with Him.



Ephesians 1- Predestined

Read Ephesians 1

Paul begins his letter to the church in Ephesus, a letter that was most likely meant to have a greater audience than just this one church, on a really high theological note.  In fact, he basically sums up salvation history in this one chapter, and it all begins and ends with God.

From all eternity, God has called us to be His own.

There is a tenant in the Christian faith known as the doctrine of predestination that is something that has been talked about and debated over the years.  Many different denominations of the Church see this differently.  Essentially, the picture that Paul is trying to paint here is a God that is far above any confines of human existence.  In fact, before the beginning began, God had worked out the plan of salvation and had even called people to Himself.  This calling, which happened before all time began, is what we know of as Predestination.

Now, this particular doctrine also raises a number of questions for us.  If God had the plan of salvation already worked out before He created the world, does that mean that God knew sin was going to happen?  How could He allow that?  Does that mean He created an imperfect world?

What about free will?  Humans were created with the freedom to choose God or not, yet God already knows who He has called and who will respond?  Doesn’t that conflict with free will?

These are good questions.  The responses would take more time and are more nuanced than this writing has time for or can address.  Some of it is beyond human understanding and comprehension.  However, it may suffice to say that what we know as salvation history, as recorded in the Bible, is far greater, more thought-out, and abundantly more complex than we may have initially thought.  Yet, even in that, God has taken care of every detail to the point that we cannot lose even a hair from our head without it being His will.  Truly, He is amazing!