Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 5And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
What I am Learning:
The other day I was teaching a class on Revelation and someone said, "Man, what was that guy smoking?" After some time of interpreting the text I said, "Man, what are some people who interpret Revelation smoking?" We all laughed.
One of them most surprising things for people who read the Christian Scriptures is this: just how much these writers quoted the Hebrew Scripture. They knew the Hebrew Scripture really well and could quote it and recognize quotes the way people at a Lord of the Rings conference quote Silmarillion.
Revelation 21 is the same. Here is a BRIEF list:
- Heavenly City: Isaiah 2:014, Psalm 46
- God's Throne: Pslam 47:8, I Enoch 90:29
- Face of God: II Esdras 7:98
- Tree of Life: Genesis 3, 1 Enoch 25:5
- Golden Streets and Gates of Pearl: Isaiah 60:11-14
(Source: Boring: Interpretation Series on Revelation)
The writer of Revelation is not smoking something. He is trying to help us envision what a restored earth, a new humanity and living in the full presence of God will be like.
Most people in our culture think of Revelation as a book about the end of or the destruction of the earth.
This is all wrong.
It is a book about the deep reality of the world, a reality embodied by the life-loving and self-giving Lamb who was slain. The end of the world is not its destruction, but its transformation to live like the Lamb.
The Greek word "telos" often translated "end" means "goal."
The end of the world, or better yet, its "end zone" is God. And that God will wipe away our tears and dwell with us. The word "dwell" here really means "to tent" with us, the same word used of the Living Word "dwelling with us." In Jesus God begins a process in which God will dwell with us.
Many Christians see God basically doing a rescue operation - saving a few good people out of the wreck of creation. This leads us to a theology of abandonment of the earth and its peoples.
The writer of Revelation wrote that the earth is our home and that God is bringing healing and new creation to all things. This can lead us to a theology of engagement - calling us to participate in the healing and creation as we are called.
The earth is our home, we are a part of it and it of us. Our end happens here. Our end is unity with God as a part of culture and a creation brought to wholeness by God.