Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 15
Reader: “Look, God’s home is now among his people!”
Response: “He will live with them, and they will be his people.”
Scripture: Revelation 21:1-6
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.
Following yesterday’s devotional we come to the description of the ultimate destiny to which the whole of the Bible has been pointing. Human history and the history of creation has come to a close. Final Judgment is completed, God’s eternal Kingdom has begun under the rule of the King of kings and Lord of lords and he shall reign forever and ever. That “forever” is underway! John attempts to describe this new world. It may not be so much a new planet or solar system as much as a new world that has never been, like nothing ever experienced since the Fall of man. But it’s more than a new earth for it also involves a new heaven. The old creation of Genesis 1 has decayed and has disappeared. (II Peter 3:10-11) And the sea was gone.
Some people, especially those who live by the ocean, are concerned that there will be no sea in the new creation. Again, it’s important to have a little understanding of John’s time. The sea was viewed by some as a place of evil and danger, unsettled waters. (The Flood, Red Sea, Jonah, Paul’s shipwrecks, Jesus stilling the storm) Some commentators believe John was using the sea being gone as a symbol of no more evil, uncertainty, or peril. And so he new heaven and earth had none of the former tension, sin, or treachery.
There are differing opinions as to whether the new Jerusalem is an actual city or a symbol of the church in a perfect eternal state. In either case, did you notice how communal it is? It is about the family of God. Nothing is solo about the Christian faith. There is no “God and me;” no “I’m a Christian but I don’t need the church.” The church is not a man made idea. God is the designer of this body, his body.
We come next to one of the most longed for few sentences in the whole Bible. God literally lives among his people. Tears, sorrow, crying, pain, and death are all gone. They no longer exist, nor will they ever exist again. Sadness, sin, and evil are extinct.
Did you notice the negative way to describe blessedness? Since humans have never experienced this kind of world, except for Adam and Eve for a short time, we have to describe it by saying what is not present. In truth, we really have no idea what the coming world will be like. I can’t help thinking of the woman at the well when Jesus tells her he will give her living water to drink. He was describing something she couldn’t imagine.
With his words, John encourages the followers of Christ to remain faithful to the end when God and children live together in the new Jerusalem. I’m very sure we have no idea of what it will be like to live in this situation. Our God consumes the very Beginning, the Alpha, because he has never not been and he likewise consumes the Ending, the Omega, because he is without end. And we live in his presence forever! This is what lies ahead for you and me and it’s already begun!
Some different expressions of praising God.
Music: “E’en So Lord Jesus” Paul Manz Choir of St. John’s College
Bring us, O Lord God, at the last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but an equal possession; habitations of thy majesty and thy glory, world without end. Amen.―John Donne 1571-1621 from Erdmanns’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.52