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.

Day 25: Exodus 28-30; Concerning Priests

We’re good and into the thick of the descriptive exodus content.  Today we are reading about priests.  You may be thinking to yourself, like I tend to when I read these passages, that they are not anything that we need to know about (especially priests being that Hebrew priests and the sacrificial rites no longer exist).  But, like all other things in the Bible, there are many things that we can learn from this.  In fact, the priesthood, the priestly order, and all things pertaining to priests and the Hebrew religious cult (a word that has many negative connotations in our society but actually simply means “a system of religious beliefs and ritual”) actually… you guessed it… foreshadow things to come and inform us about Jesus Christ, His life, death, and resurrection.  There are also some implications for us here, which in many ways have to do with our role as Christians in the world today.

First, to the priestly garb.  To be honest, this is one of the easier passages to read when it comes to symbolism mostly because much of what symbolized on the priestly outfit is explained.  There are 12 stones which represent the 12 tribes of Israel.  There are 2 stones, each with 6 names.  These also represent the 12 tribes of Israel.  The number twelve becomes a symbol in itself as well, representing the whole of the nation of Israel.  We tend to recognize this number from the number of Jesus disciples that He called.  Coincidence?  I think not…

There is a very specific ceremony that is described next, to consecrate the priests for service to God.  Many different animals are sacrificed in many different sacrificial ways all to “consecrate” Aaron and his sons for service as priests to God.  Here again we see the symbol of blood being used to represent forgiveness and holiness.  I’ve often wondered why God chose the specific portions of the animals to sacrifice (long lobe of the liver, kidneys with the fat still on then, etc.) for the sacrifice… I’ll try to look deeper into it, but if anyone has any insight, I would love to hear it!

I think one of the most important things that is mentioned here though is found in 28:36 with the plate that is bound to Aaron’s turban.  It reads “Holy to the Lord.”  This is the main thrust of this passage in that everything that is done here is to make the priests, or in this case Aaron, set apart, different, “Holy to the Lord.”  Holiness is a word that we often employ to describe God’s complete otherness from us.  I think that the antonym of the word Holy would be sin.  The reason this is important is because of the priests’ special position.  Their job and sole purpose in Israel is to be representatives of the people before God.  People brought their sacrifices to the priests and the priests would do the appropriate things as someone who was a mediator between Holy God and sinful man.

This position is something that is likely lost on us as we really don’t encounter something like this in our daily lives.  But… here’s the thing… actually… we do!  Too often though, I think that we get the wrong idea about this.  For us, perhaps, pastors = priests… this is something that I think has come through with tradition and may be a bit more prevalent within the Roman Catholic church with their hierarchical structures.  While I am not criticizing them here, I do believe that our mindset of the pastor being anywhere closer to God than the rest of the lay people is simply not what the Bible lays our for us in our “Post-Temple” world today.  While we read here that the “priesthood” will be for Aaron and his sons forever, just a few days ago we also read in Exodus 19 that Israel’s purpose was to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  Israel was meant to be a nation set apart for God to give glory and to be a witness to Him and for Him before all the nations.  The same is true for us.

1 Peter 2:9-10 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  We are God’s people, a chosen people, a royal priesthood.  In Christ, we are consecrated through His blood, and through the Holy Spirit we are to live in this world as God’s representatives, proclaiming His Name before all nations.