The Time Is Near!

We have cringed at attempts to predict the date of Christ’s return. Without making predictions, news of wars and increasing wickedness draw remarks like, “It really seems as though the time is soon.” Yes, we ought to be looking for Christ’s return, but remember also that believers in every age since the Ascension, have made similar remarks. What does Jesus say about his return in Revelation 22:6–11? What should you be doing? How should you live?

Worship God! See the wonder of John’s revelation. John has witnessed and recorded for you truly unique events. He has portrayed God’s fierce anger against those who have rebelled against him and who have harmed his people. He has shown you the struggle in heaven between the dragon and Michael and the angels. You have seen, through John’s eyes, the fall of Babylon and the punishment of the dragon, the beast, and their followers. You have seen the splendid beauty of the bride of the Lamb, the new Jerusalem, the wonder of the new heavens and earth. What John writes is faithful and true. It is true because it is God’s revelation. Daniel 2:45 assures king Nebuchadnezzar that the interpretation is sure. Likewise, John has not simply been writing his thoughts, but has been recording what God has revealed to him—for the church. John has been in the company of powerful angels. It is perhaps understandable that he seems to mistake one of the angels for the Lord himself, and falls at the angel’s feet to worship. John had done something similar in Revelation 19:10. Continue reading “The Time Is Near!”

The Garden-City

If you could pick the ideal place to live, what would it be? A city, with all of the art, culture, and other advantages? Someplace totally out in the wilderness, off the grid? Revelation 21 describes a magnificent city, but chapter 22:1–6 describes the same city in terms of a garden. The new Jerusalem is a garden-city!

Come to the tree in the garden. The magnificent city is also a garden. Revelation 22:1–6 is closely connected with Revelation 21. What is a magnificent city is also a garden. But it is not just any garden. As you read about the river and the tree of life, you see that this is patterned after the Garden of Eden. Eden, however, was not intended to be a permanent state. Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply, to have dominion, and to subdue the earth. Had Adam not sinned, he would not have simply sat under a fruit tree waiting for it to fall into his hands. He would have been busy. The bounds were to be extended. He was to move beyond a time of testing to enjoyment of the Sabbath rest into which his Creator and Lord had already entered. That goal of moving on to perfection was there before the fall and before redemption. Where Adam failed, the Lion-Lamb has overcome. The result is the holy city, the new Jerusalem, the bride of the Lamb, which is not only a city, but also Eden perfected—without a serpent and without the possibility of sinning. Continue reading “The Garden-City”

The New Jerusalem

In Revelation 21:9–27 John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, shows you the glory of the new Jerusalem. It’s magnificent, mind-boggling, something wonderful to anticipate. But perhaps you are asking: what practical use does it have for me today in my Christian life? Remember that John is writing to believers who are suffering. The Holy Spirit knows that what they need, and what you need, is to see what John is shown in the Spirit.

See the new Jerusalem. The magnificence of the city is overwhelming. John is taken by one of the angels to a high mountain (recall mountain top meetings between the Lord and his people). The scene contrasts with the wilderness of Revelation 17:3, from which John views the fall of another great city, Babylon. The overwhelming impression is light—reflecting the glory of God. The brilliance is compared to jasper, normally an opaque stone, but here, clear as crystal. The jewels bring to mind the breastplate of the high priest, each bearing the name of of one of the tribes of Israel, which the high priest wore as he entered the tabernacle and later the temple, Exodus 28. The measurements are symbolic—12,000 stadia. That is about 1,400 miles. If one corner were in Newberg, another would be in Minneapolis. The width, length, and height are equal (that would put the top of the city in the area of some satellites). The cube shape is significant, reminding you of the much smaller Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and later in the temple. The foundations are jewels, and each gate a pearl. The street is gold, but gold that is transparent as glass. The city is one of overwhelming, indescribable magnificence, because God is there with his people. And the city is the bride of the Lamb. You can’t draw a sharp distinction between the city and the people who make up the city. Continue reading “The New Jerusalem”

The New Heavens and New Earth

The Christian takes profound comfort in the knowledge that even death does not separate him from his Savior. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. In Revelation 21:1-8 John takes you to an even deeper comfort. He shows you, and all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, what happens to you after the final judgment.

See the new Jerusalem! The new heaven and earth are real places. Revelation 21:1–8, though part of the final two chapters, is also part of bridge between the glory of the new Jerusalem and the account of God’s judgment. The last part of Revelation 20 focuses on the last judgment (with mention that those whose names are written in the book of life, are not punished), and our text focuses on them (with mention of judgment for hypocritical rebels). The passage uses lots of figurative language, but the symbols describe something real. The symbolism is needed because our minds and imaginations, clouded by sin, cannot fully comprehend what God has in store for us. There have been theories in parts of Christianity that the heavens and earth will be annihilated and brand new ones created. But God pronounced his creation “very good,” hardly pointing to simply a temporary purpose for it. Isaiah 60 speaks of the renewal, the re-creation of the heavens and earth—though describing it in language suited for his Old Testament hearers. In Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15 Paul draws a parallel between our resurrection and the renewal of creation. Your resurrection body will certainly be changed (1 Thessalonians 4), but you will be raised and changed. Similarly the creation will be perfected, as we shall see, purged from sin and its effects, but it is God’s good creation in which you will dwell in the new heavens and earth. “‘All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth and sky and sea.’ To sing that line from this well-known hymn is to confess that the present praise of creation is not merely pre-eschatological, destined in the end for the silence of eternal extinction. The present creation awaits the eschatological voice it will receive when, free at last from its ‘bondage to corruption,’ it will ‘obtain the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.’ With this obtaining together with the sons of God, creation’s praise— beyond all sighing and in a manner beyond present comprehension— will heighten their enjoyment of that freedom and glory in the new creation of God. (Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “What ‘Symphony of Sighs’” in Redeeming the Life of the Mind, pp. 160-161). An obedient Adam, if you can talk carefully about what would have happened, was not to continue for all eternity in the Garden, continuing to guard against the temptations of Satan. After his period of testing, the fruit of the Tree of Life (from which as a fallen creature he was barred) would have been his to eat. He would have moved on to far greater glory. And, the creation, instead of being cursed by his fall, would have moved on to something even better as well. Now that has been realized, but only because the second Adam has done what the first did not do. Continue reading “The New Heavens and New Earth”