All Things New – Revelation 21-22
As we find ourselves at the final two chapters of the book of Revelation, there is a drastic shift in the story. The climactic battle has taken place, good has triumphed over evil, and now there is a clean-up phase. John sees everything being made new. This kingdom is also described by Isaiah in Isaiah 65:17-25. The Greek word “new” that John uses is “Kaine.” This word does not mean new as in something different. It means new as in, refreshed or changed. The first earth is not dissolved and a new one put in its place. The earth that we are currently on has gone through an incredible purification process by the time we get to Revelation 21. All of the judgments have been for purifying the earth from evil in order for God to set up His new kingdom.
One of the things we notice that makes this earth new is that God is now dwelling with man. They are together and there is a new community of loyalty to God and the Lamb. This dwelling of God with man is a fulfillment of a promise made to the people of Israel in Leviticus 26:11-12. A promise made so long ago is now finally being fulfilled. The relationship will be tangible. Seated on His throne He will give blessing to some and death to others. In Revelation 17 and 18 we were introduced to the nation of Babylon. The nation of evil that has existed throughout time. Here we now find a new kingdom that is taking the place of the destroyed Babylon. One of purity and holiness, completely new in Christ, and only those in Christ can enter it.
John sees a new Jerusalem now coming out of the sky. It is massive in size and brilliant in appearance. A perfect cube with the names of the twelve tribes on the gates and the disciples names on the foundations. It is thought that this city may not be a real city, but rather symbolic for the people of God. This line of thinking starts with the knowledge that the angel tells John to come and see the bride, the wife of the Lamb. We already know that it is the church that is considered the bride of Christ. So, the equal measurements all divisible by twelve represents the perfection of these saints. The gates and foundations described by the tribes and apostles indicate that the growth of the saints is on the back of these groups who were the original carriers of the message of God. This is not an idea that we can know for sure, but one that can make sense. It is also possible that it is a literal city. The previous Jerusalem was full of evil in which the saints and prophets were slaughtered. So now in this renewed world, we need a new and purified Jerusalem. Which one is true? We can’t know but can merely be excited about the perfection and beauty of the world and city to come.
As the final part of John’s vision of the new world, he sees a river. The river of life flowing from the throne of God. It reminds me of the instance of Jesus with the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus told the woman that she needed to ask Him for water, and He would give her to drink the water of life. He is the source, just as He is here in Revelation. Beside the river John sees a tree, the tree of life. Think back to Genesis 3. The tree of life was in the Garden of Eden. A tree Adam and Eve were allowed to eat from and yet chose not to. After they were removed from the garden, an angel was sent to guard the way to the tree lest they eat it and live forever in their fallen state. Now, in the world of perfection, the tree is once again available for all to eat and enjoy! It produces different fruit each month and its leaves are for the healing of the nations. A healing that is a soul level healing restoring their peace in the new kingdom with God.
As John closes out the prophecy of Revelation, he ends with a charge to us. First, an angel speaks sharing how the prophecy is trustworthy and true. Then Jesus speaks declaring that he would return soon and that those who keep His words will be blessed. John is told not to seal up the prophecy, but to share it. As he shares it, some will not change. We are reminded in this moment that we cannot make anyone do anything they do not want to do. We can simply present the message of Christ to them and allow them to choose for themselves. It is our duty to share the message. The message in the book of Revelation, but also the message that Christ has given us. The one of redemption and renewed relationship with God.
Revelation 21:6 can give us great courage and strength in this task as well as in our present life circumstances. God tells us that He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. In telling us this, He declares His great sovereignty and control over all things! At no time throughout history has God ever not been in control. Nothing has happened that shocked Him and made Him question what was going on. The same is true of the future. Nothing will happen that will throw God off and make him wonder what to do about it. He is in total control. As we have gone through the book of Revelation, it is easy to be fearful. There is a great deal of persecution and martyrdom as well some scary creatures. However, when we understand that God is in control, we realize that we have nothing to fear. This fact needs to sustain us in our current situation as well. No matter where you are, what you are doing, or what God has called you to, He is in control. He has you. He will not leave you. He is “Faithful and True” and will sustain you. Go and declare His greatness to the world around you. Do not seal up the message of this book!