Reader: “Look, God’s home is now among his people!”
Response: “He will live with them, and they will be his people.”
Scripture: Revelation 21: 1-7
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
Put simply, the willingness of the Son of God to come to earth beginning in the humblest of circumstances made what John saw and wrote about in this vision possible. John was one of the three people in human history that saw a vision of God’s Kingdom while still on earth. Isaiah (6:1-8) and Ezekiel (1:1-28) would be the other two persons. While their descriptions were similar, they were attempting to describe their vision of something for which we have no words nor have we ever seen anything like what they saw. What they were describing is beyond our imaginations. Imagine trying to describe a four dimensional sunset!
John had a familiarity with Genesis 1 and the initial creation description. Here in Revelation he describes a new creation, a new earth. He is not suggesting that God will create a new set of stars and universe, but rather that the old order of creation will pass away and a more glorious age will take its place. Think of God’s work as a “rejuvenated world” as one commentator put it (C.R. Erdman, Revelation of John, Westminster Press, p.155). You’ll recall Moses’ description of the Spirit hovering over the waters in a dark world bringing life and light. The sea in John’s description here in Revelation might refer to an old order where sin and evil abounded. Think of the great destructive flood in Noah’s day. When John writes that the sea was no more, he may be referring symbolically to a fallen corrupt world. But this new city, heaven, is free from sin and any corruption. The new creation is holy. While there are various interpretations of this passage, the bottom line is that the new creation is infinitely superior to the old and that the glory of God and dwelling in the presence of God is the central point.
In the First Testament, God’s dwelling place with his people was in the Tabernacle during the wilderness years and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. In the new heaven and earth, God’s dwelling place is with and fellowshipping among all his people. He is not confined to a man-made place or space. His presence is different from anything we have experienced. There are no words for what John is attempting to describe. Herein is a great mystery.
John continues describing the benefits of this new presence of God living among his people. There will be no tears, no sorrow, no pain, no death―all the things of the old world are gone forever! None of us have ever lived in an environment like this nor can we fully grasp what John is depicting. Notice, it’s easier to describe this world in negatives―by what it’s not. That is one way to deal with something we can’t completely comprehend.
God’s words to John regarding his being the Alpha and the Omega―the Beginning and the End―harken back to John 1:1 reminding us that time itself is encompassed by his eternal nature. He has never not existed as the only uncreated Creator. Everything that is owes its existence to God. He is the Satisfier of every longing. To the thirsty his water is from an eternal spring, a source that has no end. John’s vision has described as best he can the inheritance of the overcomer, the one who heeds the Savior’s call and “follows him.” What lies ahead for those who trust in Christ alone is more glorious than any words we can manage and all because of a Baby who came to a manger.
Music: “Away in a Manger” Anúna
As long as Thou art present with us, O Thou whom our soul loveth, we are in the light; all is brightness, all is sweetness. We discourse with Thee, live with Thee and rest with Thee. Arise in our hearts; make Thy light to shine in darkness as a perfect day. Amen.
―Henry Vaughan (1622-1695), The Quiet Corner, p.4