Christians have a glorious promise and a wonderful hope that they can cling to and take comfort in. Whether we are near the end of all things – at least the end of all old things – is not crystal clear. But whether the Lord returns in 2022 or some other time, we have a huge wedding to look forward to. With that in mind, we can repeat the prayer of John: “Come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). I sure am ready – are you?
I had several things in mind to write about this last day of 2021. But as I was reading the closing chapters of the Bible, I decided that a quick look at Revelation 21:1-5 would be the way to close out the year, as it discusses how God will close out life on earth, and start a new heaven and new earth.
Let me say at the outset that this is a book full of mystery and wonder, and those who claim to have it all fully understood are far more confident – some might say arrogant – than I am. The extensive use of symbolism and imagery alone makes this a very difficult book to properly and conclusively interpret.
As such the advice Peter gave in regard to the writings of Paul seems even more appropriate to John, the author of the Apocalypse: “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).
But one thing that is clear is that a primary message of the book is that in the end God wins and his enemies lose. God is victorious. Regardless of how bad things have been for so long, God is the Victor and no one and nothing stands in his way. That is good news indeed.
And it is God the Son who is especially highlighted in this book. As the sacrificial lamb, prefigured so often in the Old Testament, Jesus is the all-conquering hero of the book. And we should not let the figure of a lamb (something Christ is called around 30 times in this book) mislead us. He may have come to earth the first time as a gentle sheep, but he returns as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, wreaking judgment on all his foes.
So he is both lamb and lion. With all this in mind, let me look a bit more closely at some of the closing words found in this book. The first five verses of the penultimate chapter of Revelation say this:
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. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Those words alone should be of such tremendous comfort to all who have suffered so greatly during the past year – indeed, during the past 21 months. This global virus and various state responses to it have made that past year or two some of the most difficult that many of us – at least in the West – have ever experienced.
In the light of such tough times and dark days, the words of John in this book are a sweet comfort indeed. And Revelation is written not just for our benefit today, but for all God’s saints who have suffered so much over the centuries.