Revelation 21:1-7; 22:1-5
The book of Revelation has been interpreted and reinterpreted since the time of its writing in the first century. It is a book full of visions received by “his servant John” from an angel who received them from God as “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In the Bible, Revelation is the end of the story of God’s creation and redemption of the world, but it is only the beginning of God’s ongoing gift of eternal life. The Revelation story is one of persecution and judgment, as well as redemption and new life.
John is sent to Patmos, a Greek island of only 13 square miles in the Aegean Sea, as punishment for his ongoing ministry in the name of Jesus Christ, which ran counter to the emperor worship of the Roman empire. John’s persecution for his faith and service becomes the background for his visions, which are full of threat and judgment for those who are unfaithful to God.
John’s visions are circular, moving from the worship of God to persecution and judgment and back to worship again until finally reaching a climax in chapters 21 and 22, when there is only worship. The end will come when God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, [and] death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (21:4).
In these closing chapters, we find the picture of “a new heaven and a new earth.” God created everything “in the beginning,” and now God is making all things new. It is a new beginning, with a “new Jerusalem,” defined as “the dwelling of God . . . with men.”
It is essential to see that this is the salvation of all creation, not just human souls. “See, I am making all things new” (21:5). The apostle Paul alluded to this when he wrote in Romans 8:22, “We know that all that God created has been groaning. It is in pain as if it were giving birth to a child. The created world continues to groan even now” (NIrV).
We will no longer ask, “where is God?” God and Jesus Christ, the lamb, will be with us, and we will live in the city with “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1).
The time in which people are constantly being drawn away from God to worship other gods will be over. The end is as it was in the beginning—-a restored garden, a place for all humankind. Then we shall see God face to face, thanks to God’s everlasting mercy and love.
Once more, we see the interrelatedness of God’s creation and humankind. We can all experience new life with God because of God’s faithfulness. This is John’s vision and God’s promise.
Questions for thought
- How can we live now as if the new creation has already come?
- How can this vision and promise affect how we treat others and the rest of God’s creation?
- Are others able to see God alive in us now?
- What can they see?
God, who makes all things new, help us to see the ways we have been faithful and how we have fallen short. Guide us to seek new life in you. Amen.
This Bible study comes from Shine: Living in God’s Light, the Sunday school curriculum published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia.