Posts by rickbarbareblog

I am a retired Clergyman and a retired College instructor. I live in Trenton, SC in Edgefield County.

Revelation 22: Epilogue, Part One

Revelation 22:6-9

The Epilogue of Revelation concludes with (1) promise, (2) exhortation, and (3). confirmation in order to….

(1) drive home to our hearts the message of the visions, and
(2) stir up hope for the coming of the Lord Jesus (22: 20). (see Poythress, below; emphasis mine.) 

“The epilogue shows clearly that the purpose of the book is to induce holy obedience among God’s people in order that they receive the reward of salvation.” (see Beale, p. 508; below).

I. We can trust the words of Revelation because they are sent to us by God Himself. [ESV]

vs. 6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

The word “true” is alēthinos—meaning “genuine.” The phrase “the God of the spirits of the prophets” is a reference to the divine inspiration of Scripture that has been placed before us in the Revelation of John. II Peter 1:19-21 gives us the method by which prophecy and its written form—Scripture—was given—”men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (see sailboat to the left). The Spirit of God kept the writers of Holy Scripture on course as they wrote. The Holy Spirit used human instrument’s education (or lack of it), gifts, talents, writing style, and vocabulary. This is affirmed by the angel speaking to John and the readers of his book. We can trust it because it is true!

Organic view of Inspiration 2

The phrase “things which must soon [en tachei] take place” has been interpreted in several different ways—

(1) En tachei is taken by some to mean “soon in time.” These folks say that John was obviously mistaken about the time of fulfillment. He expected the things in the visions to occur immediately, and they did not. This is the view of liberal commentators.
(2) Others take the phrase en tachei to mean “quickly,” or “speedy.” These folks see this as an assurance of the speed with which the events prophesied will occur when the time for fulfillment comes. This is the view of futurist conservative commentators.
(3) I believe the more accurate view is to take en tachie as “shortly.” The time of fulfillment was to begin immediately after Jesus’ Resurrection, Ascension, and Session—to sit at the right hand of the Father.

“Revelation 1:3 gives us an excellent commentary: the time is at hand, and the symbols begin to be realized immediately.” (see Hendriksen, below.) This is the view of those who hold to a realized millennium (Dr. Jay Adams’ term). 

II. We are blessed by keeping the exhortations written in Revelation. vs. 7

vs. 7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” [ESV]

The word “soon” is the same as the one in the last verse—tachei—meaning “shortly.” The same understanding of the word’s indication of imminent fulfillment and deployment throughout the age of the Church applies. Jesus will come when the time arrives for his coming. Until then, he could come at any moment!

This verse contains the sixth of seven “beatitudes.” The reason for such blessing being promised to the reader is obvious because it is the book which most exalts Jesus Christ. The Greek word for blessed is makairos—The word…expresses a permanent state of felicity, rather than the passive reception of a blessing bestowed by another.

The Seven Beatitudes in Revelation [ESV]

III. Angels give us unseen aid as children of God, but we need to take care so we will not give Angels what is due to God alone. vss. 8-9

vs. 8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

The revelation of God was mediated through an angel to John. This was the practice of God since OT times. Acts 7:38 51-52 state—

38 This is the one [Moses] who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles [logion zaō see § note below] to give to us. … 51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”


Note on Acts 7:38 in Greek

§ Logion from logos, “word,” but meaning “a divine declaration; a statement originating from God.” Zaō = from which we derive the English word Zoology. The Amplified Bible renders the words—”divine words that still live.” Matthew Poole says this of living oracles—”God’s law and word is so called, as the only rule to walk by unto life, Deuteronomy 32:45-47—

45 And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” [ESV]

[The living oracles are]…said to be our life; and it is the only ordinary means of a spiritual and holy life, which it begets and preserves.” (see Mattew Poole)


Note that Moses received revelation through angelic mediation. John stands in the same lineage of prophets as Moses, etc, in the OT. However, even he was tempted to go too far. He was tempted to worship the servant of God rather than God himself. If John was so tempted, so too might the readers be. Hence, the Holy Spirit sees fit to warn all against the worship of angels.

The angel doesn’t accept John’s worship. He uses the present imperative of horaō—”take care!”—”to perceive with inward spiritual perception.” (see Bible Hub). He follows the warning by a terse prohibition—don’t!” The negative particle used in these types of prohibitions indicates that the behavior in progress is strictly forbidden—”Stop!”

His kneeling in the previous verse was “for the purpose of worshiping the angel,” but such worship had commenced. The angel recognized what was coming and forbade it. The angel further clarifies his position by the word “fellow-servant.” The word is sundoulos—a fellow slave along with another. In other words, the two—the angel and John—shared the same position before God. John is grouped also with the prophets in this verse as he was in verse 6. Ephesians 2:19-21 declare how Christ’s church was founded—

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

We will move to part two of the epilogue next week.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Poythress, V. (2000). The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing. 

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 22: Blessed Life in the New Jerusalem Described, Part 2

Revelation 22:2-5

Image above public domain; “Tree” from public domain pictures net

The application of Revelation 22:1-5 is—

As we read, reread, and meditate on Revelation, our longing for Christ and the place he has prepared for us to dwell with Him ever increases and our church life is transformed into a vision of what we will experience in eternity.


A Look Back

We saw in the last post—

I. We will only achieve full satisfaction of soul and body from complete fellowship with God in eternity. vss. 1-2a

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2a through the middle of the street of the city… .


Now let’s proceed to the other amazing details in Rev. 22:2b-5 about our life in the eternal state.

I also want us to think about how that vision affects our life in the church now. After all, the earthly church (in space and time as much as is possible) ought to reflect the ideals of the Bride of Christ in eternity.


II. All of our past physical needs in our life on earth will be met to the fullest in the New Jerusalem. vs. 2b.

vs. 2b … also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Ought not the church today partially meet the needs of those in its midst? Needs include—

(1) emotional support for those who are hurting; (2) financial help for those who cannot meet their own needs for survival; (3) prayer support for those who are overwhelmed in trial; (4) Bible teaching for those who are church members so they can grow in Christ and in the faith. People need to see Christ in us, so they can be drawn to Him. 

II Corinthians 3 tells of our seeing that glory partially now—Roman Table

15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a [mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. [KJV; emphasis mine]

N.B. Mmirrors in the ancient world were on bronze tables. The surface was polished so one could bend over and get an idea if they were ready to go out of their house. (Table right from Pinterest; Photo mharrsch on flickr taken at “Pompeii)


God’s Face is Toward Us. Always!

A young man’s wife had died, leaving him with a small son. Back home from the cemetery, they went to bed early because there was nothing else he could bear to do.

As he lay there in the darkness, grief-stricken and heartbroken, the little boy broke the stillness from his little bed with a disturbing question, “Daddy, where is mommy?”

The father got up and brought the little boy to bed with him, but the child was still disturbed and restless, occasionally asking questions such as, “Why isn’t she here?” and, “When is she coming back?”

Finally the little boy said, “Daddy, if your face is toward me, I think I can go to sleep now.” In a little while, he was quiet.

The father lay there in the darkness, and then in childlike faith, prayed this prayer: “O God, I don’t see how I can survive this. The future looks so miserable, but if Your face is toward me, somehow I think I can make it.”

…God’s face is always toward us. Nothing ever will be able to separate us from His love. Now, that’s real security. (See Moore, J. W., below)

(I had heard this story in a different version long before Pastor James Moore told it, but I think the way he tells it is better than the way I heard it in a past sermon.)

If God’s face is ever toward us in Christ, ought not our face be toward those who come to our church?


John draws upon Ezekiel for his image of the New Jerusalem. He updates the Old Testament prophecies in light of  Jesus death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Ezekiel 47:12 envisions trees on either side of the river, as well as Rev. 22—

12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

The presence of trees in Revelation 22 is John’s way of saying that mankind has regained paradise. It was this that mankind forfeited in the fall of Adam. The nations are now healed and made acceptable as a dwelling place for redeemed humanity.

spring_canal_fall_landscape_leaves_nature_outdoors_park.pg!d

Image above is of trees in full bloom on either side of a canal from Mocah HD Wallpapers; public domain.

III. Our life in the New Jerusalem will be free of sin and centered on worship of the Triune God. vs. 3

vs. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 

The New Heavens and Earth are released from the effects of Adam’s fall. The ground will no longer cursed by God. God’s dwelling place is in the Holy City.

John uses the word doulos (“slave”) to describe the people of God. They belong to God, and are his property, in the good sense of that term. Those who belong to God are taken care of by Him.

God’s people are said to “serve” him. The Greek word is latreuō “the service of worship.” We derive the word liturgy from latreuō. (Do not confuse it with a Latin word liturgus meaning “a servant of the state or an attendant,” Wiktionary.) The word in Greek means a worshiper of God. This word is used of the priestly service performed in the OT temple. This means that the saints will worship the Lord throughout all eternity, and such worship will not be boring or tedious. 


The Revival of the Church Communicates God’s Presence to People

During the Welsh Revival 1904-1905, a Welsh coal miner was heading home after his shift. It was dark and he saw a light on in the chapel. He opened the door, stuck his head in, and then he withdrew, exclaiming “Oh! God is here.”


We will not be in doubt about who is central in eternity—the Triune God. Ought not our church be centered on God now!


People are Not the Audience at Church

“If you were to eavesdrop on the conversations of churchgoers after a typical worship service, you’d hear comments Kierkegaard_olaviuslike, “I loved the band this morning” or “The choir was a little off” or “The sermon was great” or “Pastor Mark missed it this morning.” If you didn’t know anything about Christian worship, other than what you heard from worshipers on their way home from church, you’d figure that worship is some kind of performance. The churchgoers are the audience (or maybe even the critics). The band, choir, preacher, and other leaders are the performers.” (Kierkegaard pictured right from WikiMedia Commons.)

“According to Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher, God is the audience for worship. Congregational members were the performers. Worship leaders were the prompters.”  (see Audience for Worship, below.)


J. S. Bach said, “All music should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the soul’s refreshment; where this is not remembered there is no real music but only a devilish hub-bub.”

He headed his compositions: “J. J.” “Jesus Juva” which means “Jesus help me.”

He ended them “S. D. G.” “Soli Dei gratia” which means “To God alone the praise.” (from https://bible.org/illustration/j-s-bach)


We need such musicians for our worship today. We must look to them as prompters, not as performers!

IV. God’s people will be marked as His very own and will live in His presence. vs. 4

vs. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

In glory we will be able to look on God. However, the Father need not take on human form, nor the Holy Spirit. Jesus already has human form. Other than this explanation, we do not know specifically how this will be fulfilled.This sight of God is called the Beatific Vision—the sight that makes us perfectly blessed!

I John 3:1-2—

1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Let me suggest two further lines of thought—

(1) The Aaronic blessing may give us further insight into “seeing God’s face.” Numbers 6:24-26—

24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. [ESV; emphasis mine.]

God’s turning His face toward us is being aware of His presence.

(2) A further idea is given by the Reformers when they used the phrase corem Deo—Latin for “before the face of God.”

“This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God” (see Sproul Blog, below).

So, all we can say about Rev. 22:4 is to see God’s face is to be overwhelmingly aware of His Holy Presence. If this reflected in the face of Jesus, great.


R. B. Jones, the 1904 Revival in Wales, recalled something of the glory of it.

A sense of the Lord’s presence was everywhere. It pervaded, nay, it created the spiritual atmosphere. It mattered not where one went the consciousness of the reality and nearness of God followed. Felt, of course, in the revival gatherings, it was by no means confined to them; it was also felt in the homes, on the streets, in the mines and factories, in the schools, yea, and even in the theaters and drinking saloons. The strange result was that wherever people gathered became a place of awe, and places of amusement and carousal (revelry) were practically emptied… The pit bottoms and galleries became places of praise and prayer, where the miners gathered to worship ere they dispersed to their several stalls. Even the children of the day schools came under the spell of God. (see Lord’s Presence, below.)


Some things must be left to eternity. We think of the transcendence of God as a Being “way off somewhere.” This is not what transcendence means.


Transcendence of God
(R C Sproul)

“When the Bible speaks of God as transcendent, it is not describing God’s location… . …“up there” or “out there” somewhere. When we say that God is above and beyond the universe, we are saying that He is above and beyond the universe in terms of His being.”(see Sproul Theologian, below).

Let me add: He can be right beside us in location and yet be appreciably different from us and everything around us in creation in His Being. But…when He turns His face toward us, we and all around us are transformed! 

In times of refreshing God let’s His presence appear to us as we are overwhelmed by what he is doing among us. I have had that experience at least once.

When I was nine years old, I went to church camp for the first time. A foreign missionary and our local Baptist Association Missionary spoke. When we sang and the men preached and prayed, I sensed the presence of God in a way I had not done in my local church. My mother told me of similar experiences she had in the late 1940s. It was a heightened sense of God’s presence in our region that lasted through the early 1960s.

V. We will experience in the New Jerusalem the overwhelming, outshining of God’s glory. vs. 5

GodLight2vs. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

The day has finally arrived, and will be the experience of redeemed humanity forever. Our present time is often described in Scripture as “night time.” And the time when Jesus appears is described as the “day.” Romans 13:12 says—The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light [now!].

I Thessalonians 5:5 points out— For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.

II Peter 1:19 describes—

17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [ESV; emphasis mine]

The Greek word for “carried along” in II Peter 1:21 (pherō) is used of a ship borne along by the wind in its sails in Acts 27:17—

13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land. 15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 Running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the ship’s boat. 17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along. [ESV; emphasis mine]

Ought we not to pay closer attention to those who were borne along by the Holy Spirit as they wrote the Bible, rather than seeking those today who claim to speak prophecy about day-to-day events?


“The Runaway Bunny”

I quoted from Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven” in the last post. I like another more down-to-earth depiction of love’s relentless pursuit. It is found in the classic children’s book The Runaway Bunny. I first became aware of this children’s book when I saw the movie, “Wit,” staring Emma Thompson and Blythe Danner.

Thompson’s character was a PhD whose scholarly endeavors had made her an expert on the Metaphysical Poets. Her professor who managed her dissertation came to Thompson’s deathbed (stage 5 metastasized cancer) and her professor asked if she wanted her to read from John Donne. A grown comes from her bed, “Noooo!” She then took the children’s book The Runaway Bunny out of her bag. She was taking it to her grandchildren. She read to Thompson’s character from it. Watch the short summary of the scene where Danner reads The Runaway Bunny in the movie WIT.

Brown, Margaret Wise. (1948). The Runaway Bunny (New York: HarperCollins). If you want to read the little children’s book without buy it click here


To be with God and have His face shine upon us will be the greatest blessing of our lives! We can have a smaller encounter as we read God’s Word and pray here and now.

This ends the vision section of the Revelation. I will wrap up the epilogue next.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Audience for Worship. (2014). Who is the audience for worship? Blog. Accessed 20 August 2021 from https://www.theologyofwork.org/the-high-calling/daily-reflection/who-audience-worship

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Lord’s Presence. (2006). The Awareness of God’s Presence in Revival. Blog accessed 20 August 2021 from https://www.sermonindex.net/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=46877&forum=40

Moore, J. W. (2019). “Presence of God.” Accessed 20 August 2021 from https://www.preaching.com/sermon-illustrations/illustration-presence-of-god-comfort/

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Poythress, V. (2000). The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing.

Sproul, R. C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Sproul Blog. (2017). “What Does “coram Deo” Mean?” Blog. Accessed 20 August 2021 from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-does-coram-deo-mean

WikiMedia Commons for Images (unless otherwise noted)

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

 

Revelation 22: Blessed Life in the New Jerusalem Described, Part 1

Revelation 22:1-5

Image above is “The Garden of Eden,” by Erastus Salisbury Field (1805-1900); in the public domain.

The placing of Revelation 22:1-5 illustrates the arbitrariness of the chapter divisions in the early translations of the Bible into Latin. “From manuscripts dating back to the fourth century, however, some form of chapter divisions were used.” (see Bible.org; below.) The Apostle John is  obviously continuing his description of the Holy City, and these first five verses belong in chapter 21 of Revelation.

John has seen: (1) the New Heavens and Earth, (2) the Bride of the Lamb, (3) the New Jerusalem, and now he sees (4) an Eden-like Garden. The eternal state is described under all these symbols.

new-jerusalem2

“Revelation is designed not only to inform us and assure us about God’s final purposes, but to increase our longing for God and the realization of His purpose. … The final state restores the unbroken, idyllic communion between God and human beings.” (see Poythress, below; emphasis mine.) 

As we read Revelation our longing for Christ and the place he has prepared for us increases.

I. We will only achieve full satisfaction of soul and body from complete fellowship with God in eternity. vss. 1-2

vs. 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb vs. 2 through the middle of the street of the city… .

John shifts his description from the outward features of the Holy City to its internal characteristics.  “John [uses) archetypical (representative) images from Genesis 1-3 and Ezekiel 40ff [to describe the blessedness of the Holy City] . …Metaphors of water and light abound (cf. Isaiah 12:3; Zechariah 14:7-8).” (see Johnson, A F; below.)

In Isaiah 55:1, the image of water is a symbol of salvation”—

1
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;Jesus giving living waters 2
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.

In Ezekiel 47:1 water is used as an image of the renewed earth—

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.

In John 4:10-15, Jesus uses water as a symbol of salvation—

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[a] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

Here in Revelation water flows from the throne of God himself and the Lamb. Its effects are for individuals and for the earth itself, as the next verse shows. Salvation includes the renewal of persons and the planet, which is the environment of mankind. Romans 8:19-22 speaks of this so eloquently—

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.


The Feast of Tabernacles

In John 7:37-39 Jesus invites His hearers to come to Him for the water—

Libation at Feast of Tabernacles37 On the last day of the feast, the great day [eighth day], Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 

Jewish Customs of the Feast of Tabernacles in the Time of Jesus

On each day the ritual included a libation of water which was taken in a golden vessel from the pool of Siloam, and which was offered by the priests as they sang: “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isa. 12:3). (see Tenney, pg. 134; below.)

We get the full significance of the water on the eighth day when no water was poured out, but everyone looked to God to provide the water. It was this point in the festival Jesus made His cry, “If anyone is thirsty let him come unto Me.” (see Knowing Jesus Blog, below.) Thus, we are always dependent upon intimate contact with God through Christ for our soul and body satisfaction.


We need to see that it is God who seeks a personal relationship with us. John 4:23—

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 

Note the Father is seeking worshipers. He wants a personal relationship with us here and now. This is only accomplished through Jesus Christ. 


God’s Pursuit of the Lost

I like Francis Thompson’s poem The Hound of Heaven. “…He wandered the streets of London for several years in his late twenties, living as a vagrant. It was during this period of utter destitution that he was taken in by a missionary, during which time he summoned up his store of inspiration and wrote ‘The Hound Of Heaven’.” (see Life Continuance Blog below.) The poem uses a metaphor of a hound chasing down a hare. “The poem borrows language from the British hunt called Hare Coursing. Hare Coursing is the pursuit of hares by two dogs, predominantly greyhounds.” The image [hound of heaven] was often used by Puritans to refer to God, because it descriptively tells of God’s relentless pursuit of man. (see Abbott, below.)

If the poetry is not your thing, skip it and listen to the modernized version in the film clip below.

Selections from “The Hound of Heaven”
by Francis Thompson (1890)

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the [meandering] ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up [panoramic] hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

hound-heaven

But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
‘All things [betray] you, who [betray] Me.’

… .

How little worthy of any love [you are]!
Whom [will you] find to love [lowly] you,
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from [you] I did but take,
Not for [your] harms,
But just that [you might] seek it in My arms.
All which [your] child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for [you] at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom [you] seekest!
[You chased away] love from [you], who [chased away] Me.’

(see Thompson, below; modernized words in brackets are mine.)
(Image of dog above from Bill Brenner’s blog.)

The film clip below is longer than I usually link to in this Blog, but it is worth listening to!

The film above is a modern adaptation of the poem ‘The Hound of Heaven’ written by Francis Thompson produced by Emblem Media LLC. The book was written by Brian and Sally Oxley, Sonja Oxley Peterson with Dr. Devin Brown. Illustrations by Tim Ladwig. The song based on the poem, “I Finally See,” is available at this blue link → YouTube.


People engaging in addictive behavior are often trying to fill the void in their heart that only Christ can fill (see Confessions by St. Augustine). If Christ is still pursuing us, all we need do is stop running, turn, and embrace Him as our Lord and Savior. In the end we will find Him as our all-in-all. See Psalm 119:65-72 for a description of suffering and hurt and what they did to his life. “The psalmist understands that God afflicted him for a good purpose and, in doing so, took him from disobedience to obedience. God broke him down and brought him to his knees in order to draw him to his Creator in faith and trust.” (see Abbott, below).

Next time we move to 22:3.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Abbott, Shari. (2021). “Is ‘The Hound of Heaven’ a Name for God?” Reasons for Hope blog Accessed 5 August 2021 from https://reasonsforhopejesus.com/is-hound-of-heaven-a-name-for-god/

Allen, C. L. (1987). Home Fires: A Treasury of Wit and Wisdom. Nashville, TN: W. Publishing Group

Apocalyptic. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company. Accessed 26 July 2021 from https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/apocalyptic/

Bible Hub. (2021). 

Bible.org. (2021). “How and when was the Bible divided into chapters and verses?” Accessed 5 August 2021 from https://bible.org/question/how-and-when-was-bible-divided-chapters-and-verses

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). English Standard Version. Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Faulkner, N. (2011). The Official Truth: Propaganda in the Roman Empire. Accessed 29 July 2021 from https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/romanpropaganda_article_01.shtml

Fee, G. D. (2010). Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series) Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle version. 

Herrick, G. (2005). The Quiet-Time: What, Why, and How. Accessed 16 July 2021 from https://bible.org/article/quiet-time-what-why-and-how#P10_1647

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Hudgen, R. (2016). Trustworthy Sayings blog. Accessed 28 July 2021 from https://rickhudgens.blogspot.com/2016/10/ punching-holes-in-darkness.html

Knowing Jesus Blog. (2021). “What Does John 7:39 Mean?” blog accessed 6 August 2021 from https://dailyverse.knowing-jesus.com/john-7-37

Illustration Ideas. (n.d.). What Prayer is Not, Blog. Accessed 28 July 2021 from https://illustrationideas.bible/what-prayer-is-not/ 

Jesus Christ Superstar. (2021). Wikipedia accessed 24 July 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Jesus_Christ_Superstar

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary. ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Lewis, C. S. (1952). Mere Christianity. New York City: NY: The Macmillan Company. 

Life Continuance blog. (n.d.) Accesed 5 August 2021 from http://lifecontinuance.blogspot.com/2011/12/hound-of-heaven.html

Lopez, M. (2014). Thoughts from LIFE 100.3 blog. Accessed 28 July 2021 from https://marialopezlife.blogspot.com/ 2014/05/how-queen-victoria-stood-for-christ.html

May, J. (2015). “You brought Pavement?!” Accessed 26 July 2021 from http://www.ahomewithgod.com/uncategorized/ you-brought-pavement/

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Packer, J. I. (1986). Your Father Loves You. Chicago, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers.

Poythress, V. (2000). The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing. 

Sproul, R. C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Swete, H. B. (1909). Apocalypse of St. John. 3rd Edition. London, UK: MacMillan and Co. Ltd. 

Tenney, M. C. (1948). John: The Gospel of Belief: An Analytic Study of the Text. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans amd Co. Kindle edition.

Theophany. (2021). Wikipedia. Accessed 17 July 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophany

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 21: The New Jerusalem Described, Part 2

Revelation 21:22-27

Image above is from Royal Choral Society: ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Handel’s Messiah, with audience standing. YouTube. 

It is strange to see a scene in the book of Revelation that ends in the wrong chapter. Chapter 22:1-5 should have been included in Chapter 21. So Revelation 21:22-17 is the next to last scene of the New Heavens and New Earth. 

The application of the descriptive sections of the New Jerusalem is—

The use of earthly things to represent heavenly realities is relevant to believers throughout the age of the church. When First Century believers listened to the description of heaven, they would see how different the culture of the New Heavens and Earth is from the one they lived-in in Roman Imperial cities. 

Note carefully Imperial Propaganda differs from the reality of life in the Empire. “The Romans developed a sophisticated world-view which they projected successfully through literature, inscriptions, architecture, art, and elaborate public ceremonial.” (see Faulkner, below.) Note Virgil’s Aeneid as a “mission statement” for the Empire: ‘But you, Roman, must remember that you have to guide the nations by your authority, for this is to be your skill, to graft tradition onto peace, to spare those who submit, but to crush those who resist.’ (Virgil Book 6; lines 851-854.) 

Life was pretty miserable for the underclass in the Roman Colonies. They lived in “high-rise” apartments called Insulae (islands). 

 

“So much of Asia [Minor’s] land was dedicated to producing olive oil and wine for profitable export [to Rome] that its own cities often needed to import grain from Egypt or the Black Sea. Thus while owners and shippers profited, most people in Asia often had to pay higher prices for their food. (see Keener, p. 204-205; below.) Christians in Ephesus with 250,000 people would have longed for the expanse of the New Jerusalem! We ought to long for it more than we do for winning the Powerball Lottery at $500 million. 

So much for Roman patriarchal care of its colonies. The propaganda painted a rosy picture, but the poor and infirm were on their own for means of making a living. One look a the New Heavens and Earth gives us a picture of who really cares for His people—God. 

We need to see today how God’s values differ from our own society’s values.

I. God is our temple in the New Jerusalem. vs. 22 

vs. 22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 

The word for “temple” is naos, inner sanctuary. There is no specific sanctuary because the whole city is one. It is  patterned after the perfect cube of the Holy of Hollies as has already been pointed out. 

John 4 tells of worship in the future. 

19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 

The Samaritan woman changed the subject on Jesus. She wanted to ask where people ought to go to Church? Jesus answered, “People are the Church!” (I’m stretching the verses with the word Church to speak to us today.)  Like the Samaritan woman, we need to get used to the idea of worshiping in Spirit (from a regenerate heart) and in Truth (according to the Scriptures). 

Greek words for temple edited

“The lack of a temple in the new Jerusalem (21:22) contrasts starkly with traditional Jewish expectations of the end time, in which a new temple was the central feature of the city.” (See Keener; p. 497, below; emphasis mine.) As Keener points put even Roman and Greek pagans would have thought this image of the New Heavens and Earth to be strange. All pagan cities had multiple temples to their patron gods and to Augustus Caesar. 

Why no separate temple? God Himself is the temple and all who dwell there are in Him and He in them! This passage doesn’t contradict the passages in the prophets that speak of a temple restored when Messiah comes especially Ezekiel and Isaiah. 

The image of the very end includes the closet possible communion between God and mankind. Let me add, we are warming up for this in time and space when we meet with fellow believers to worship God. 


A Personal Relationship with God 

 

god wants relationship quotation

I believe we need to see the real meaning of John 3:16 “For God so loved the world,  that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Alternative translation in margin for ESV—”For this is how God loved the world.”)

Most people interpret the word “so” (houtōs in Greek) as referring to “the great amount of love God had for humans.” I would say the amount of love is not in doubt or in view. Houtōs means “in this way.”) See Biblehub G3779, below.) John is saying that God’s love for humans is expressed in this way—He sent His Son to die for humans. This is why God doesn’t recognize alternative ways to His heaven. I am not free to make up my own way if I don’t like God’s way.

One further thought on personal relationship with God and our prayers. I must realize God isn’t interested in giving me religious experiences; rather, He is interested in a personal relationship with me in time and in eternity. The only way is for us to establish a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. 


The Purpose of Prayer

“The purpose of prayer is not to access the vending machine of God’s blessing. He’s not a Genie of the lamp or [an ATM, materially or spiritually]. Rather, prayer is [consciously] inviting God into our circumstances, into our hopes, into our fears, into our dreams, and into our pain.

“Prayer is not working our way through a grocery list of requests that we desire God to perform or answer the way we expect him to. Prayer allows us to live relationally with God. Living relationally means [we] can learn to talk to God, listen to God, and think about God throughout your day—as [we] wake up in the morning, soak in the tub, drive to our next destination, sit in our favorite chair, go on a walk, compete in a volleyball tournament, or relax in a favorite place of rest.” (see Illustration Ideas, below.) 


II. God is our light in the New Jerusalem vs. 23

vs. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 

God’s glory (doxa) supplies the light for the city. Compare Isaiah 60:19-20

19 The sun shall be no more your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon give you light;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun shall no more go down,
nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your days of mourning shall be ended.


Punching Holes in the Darkness

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94), the author of classic books like Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, spent his childhood in Edinburgh, Scotland. Apparently, one evening, when he was a young lamplighterchild, as dusk was turning to darkness, Robert had his face pinned to the window at the front of his house fascinated by the lamplighter coming down the street, with his ladder and burning wick, lighting the old-fashioned gas street lamps and setting them ablaze for the night.

Seeing their son glued to the window, his parents asked him, “Robert, what in the world are you looking at out there?” With great excitement he exclaimed, “Look at that man! He’s punching holes in the darkness!” (see Hudgens, below; picture right is from the site too.)

Our Lord Jesus did that for us in this world by dying on Calvary’s tree and rising from the dead. His teachings are written down for us to give light.  Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

God will banish darkness forever in the next world. His glory will give us light. 

III. God will receive worship from all nations in the New Jerusalem. vss. 24-26. 

All nationsvs. 24-26 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 

This is a picture of a city bustling with life and activity. (It is not, as we have already seen, a description of the  Millennial kingdom of Christ.) These are the saved out of the nations who enter the new heavens and earth. The Kings of the earth now bring their glory into the city and cast it at the feet of the Lord God Almighty. Freed from self-centeredness, the rulers of the world live for the glory of God. 


Custom and The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah

During the week of her coronation, the beginning of her reign, aka “The Victorian Era”, Victoria was sitting in the Royal  Lodge while Handel’s “Messiah” was being performed. 

The lady-in-waiting came up and said, “Everybody in the room with the exception of the Queen will rise and will remain standing for the duration of the Hallelujah Chorus. It is royal etiquette that the Queen should remain seated.”

When the “Hallelujah Chorus” began, the people rose and stood with their heads bowed. It was obvious that the Queen was deeply moved. 

In spite of the royal etiquette, the young Queen rose and remained standing with her head bowed till the music ended. She said, “No way will I sit in the presence of the King of kings.” (see Lopez, below.) 

Later in life, Queen Victoria said, “I am saved by the letter M!” In I Corinthians 1:26 Paul wrote—”For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” 

I’m glad he wrote “not many of noble birth, instead of writing not any of noble birth.”

Yet Victoria made sure to honor the Lord of Lords and King of Kings! (see Lopez, below.) 


IV. God will maintain the purity of the New Jerusalem. vs. 27. 

vs. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. 

This verse disproves universal salvation as propagated by some. God’s offer of salvation is genuinely universal.  However, there will be those who refuse to accept that offer. Those ones who refuse will be excluded from the New  Heavens and Earth. It will be by their own choice that they will not participate in God’s new order.

The Hymn “Jerusalem the Golden” was written by Bernard of Cluny (ca. 1100 to ca. 1199). The melody is from Gustave Holst’s “The Planets:  Jupiter.” The melody is usually sung to the lyrics “I Vow to Thee, My Country,” which I first heard at Princess Diana’s funeral on TV. 

Jerusalem the Golden

Next time, we will move to Chapter 22:1-5 since that passage concludes the subject begun in Chapter 21. 

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Allen, C. L. (1987). Home Fires: A Treasury of Wit and Wisdom. Nashville, TN: W. Publishing Group

Apocalyptic. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company. Accessed 26 July 2021 from https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/apocalyptic/

Bible Hub. (2021). G3779 houtō and houtōs. Accessed 28 July 2021 from https://biblehub.com/greek/3779.htm

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). English Standard Version. Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Faulkner, N. (2011). The Official Truth: Propaganda in the Roman Empire. Accessed 29 July 2021 from https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/romanpropaganda_article_01.shtml

Fee, G. D. (2010). Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series) Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle version. 

Herrick, G. (2005). The Quiet-Time: What, Why, and How. Accessed 16 July 2021 from https://bible.org/article/quiet-time-what-why-and-how#P10_1647

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Hudgen, R. (2016). Trustworthy Sayings blog. Accessed 28 July 2021 from https://rickhudgens.blogspot.com/2016/10/ punching-holes-in-darkness.html

Illustration Ideas. (n.d.). What Prayer is Not, Blog. Accessed 28 July 2021 from https://illustrationideas.bible/what-prayer-is-not/ 

Jesus Christ Superstar. (2021). Wikipedia accessed 24 July 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Jesus_Christ_Superstar

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary. ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Lewis, C. S. (1952). Mere Christianity. New York City: NY: The Macmillan Company. 

Lopez, M. (2014). Thoughts from LIFE 100.3 blog. Accessed 28 July 2021 from https://marialopezlife.blogspot.com/ 2014/05/how-queen-victoria-stood-for-christ.html

May, J. (2015). “You brought Pavement?!” Accessed 26 July 2021 from http://www.ahomewithgod.com/uncategorized/ you-brought-pavement/

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Packer, J. I. (1986). Your Father Loves You. Chicago, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers.

Sproul, R. C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Swete, H. B. (1909). Apocalypse of St. John. 3rd Edition. London, UK: MacMillan and Co. Ltd. 

Theophany. (2021). Wikipedia. Accessed 17 July 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophany

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 21: The New Jerusalem Described, Part 1

Revelation 21:19-21

I titled this post, “The New Jerusalem Described.” Well, it is described, but the description is symbolic in apocalyptic images. This is why Revelation is not a simple book. It is not interpreted with news of current events  in one  hand and the Bible in the other.

“Apocalyptic is a type of biblical literature that emphasizes the lifting of the veil between heaven and earth and the revelation of God and his plan for the world. Later apocalypses [e.g. Revelation] often build upon and elaborate the symbolism employed by earlier ones, such as the Old Testament. This is particularly the case in the Book of Revelation, in which not only earlier apocalypses but the whole Old Testament is plundered for ideas and symbols. Readers need to be alert to discern allusions.” (see Apocalyptic, below.)

I might add, if  we look to current events, we eisegete [read a foreign meaning into] the book of Revelation instead of exegete it [bring the meaning out of the text itself]. 


An experience in High School 

I was a senior in High School when Andrew Lloyd Webber released his album about the story of Jesus. “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a 1970 rock opera with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. At first, the pitch for a stage production had not obtained enough investors, so Webber released the musical album to the public. Interest in the album soared and created enough investors for a stage production by the same name. The spirit of the age in the 1960s was one of resistance to authority and desire to reinterpret the Bible as outdated for modern man. 

“[Superstar] interprets the psychology of Jesus and other characters. Much of the plot centers on Judas, who is dissatisfied with the direction in which Jesus is steering his disciples. Contemporary attitudes, sensibilities and slang pervade the rock opera’s lyrics, and ironic allusions to modern life are scattered throughout the depiction of political events. Stage and film productions accordingly contain many intentional anachronisms.” (see Jesus Christ Superstar, below.) 

Jesus Christ Superstar

Image from a Danish 2013 production of Superstar. Image by Jansroos – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29122761

Most everyone in the Bible-belt realized that the music did not fit the Scriptural image of Jesus Christ and his disciples from the Four Gospels. However, younger teachers were interested in studying current writings instead of reading the Western Canon of Literature. My English teacher was interested in denigrating the Biblical account.

I remembered hearing the song by Herod from Superstar—

Herod’s Song from Superstar

Superstar albumJesus, I am overjoyed to meet you face to face.
You’ve been getting quite a name all around the place
Healing cripples, raising from the dead.
Now I understand you’re God.
At least that’s what you’ve said.

Jesus, you just won’t believe the hit you’ve made round here
You are all we talk about, you’re the wonder of the year!
Oh, what a pity if it’s all a lie.
Still, I’m sure that you can rock the cynics if you try.

So if you are the Christ yes, the great Jesus Christ,
Prove to me that you’re no fool, walk across my swimming pool.
If you do that for me, then I’ll let you go free.
C’mon, king of the Jews!
(Lyrics from https://genius.com/Jesus-christ-superstar-cast-king-herods-song-lyrics)
(Album cover right is from Amazon.)

This one shortened quotation is about all I can stand. (See YouTube if you want the music.) It captures the spirit of a generation that was set on overturning all conventional beliefs.

Our class discussion went from Superstar to criticism of the Bible itself. I remember one particular criticism, “Why do people in heaven need all that gold and those precious stones, anyway?” 

I was still relatively young and could not fully enter into defense of the Bible that I believed to be the Word of God. I have since learned a bit more about the Scriptures. The precious metals and valuable stones are so plentiful there, they use them as building materials. John throws our world upside-down in his writings. The values of heaven are opposite to our values here on earth. (More on this below.)


The application of the descriptive sections of the New Jerusalem is—

The use of earthly things to represent heavenly realities is relevant to believers of all ages. When they listen to the description of heaven, they see how different the culture is there from the one they live-in in the cities. 

We can see today how God’s values differ from our own society’s values. 

I. Jewels and gold symbolize the brilliance of glory of God. vs. 18 

vs. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 

Realize that the image of heaven does not say they handed each person who entered the city gold and precious jewels. If Angels did that for the ones entering heaven, it would be like giving someone down here tar and gravel for their anniversary. How would that go for us? 

John sees the New Heavens and New Earth as fulfillment of Isaiah 54:11-12—

11 “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations  with sapphires. 12 I will make your pinnacles of agate, your gates of carbuncles, and all your wall of precious stones. 

Such metals and stones were only used in temples and in the homes of the rich elites in Roman times. Such riches told Roman citizens: “If you live for the glory of Rome, you’ll be on the side of the world’s most wealthy and powerful empire. If not, you’ll face the soldiers of Rome.” If we refuse to live for the glory of any country or alliance today, we might find ourselves out of a job or without previous friends. 


What a Man Wanted to Take to Heaven

A pastor once heard a story that was intended to express how heaven’s riches are beyond measure. It was a story about a rich man who was near death. He grieved because he had worked so hard and wanted to carry his riches with him.

Bag of Gold CoinsThe rich man pleaded with God and was allowed by God to bring one bag. Overjoyed, he loaded a small bag full of gold coins. Upon arrival at heaven, he was checking in and was told by [the Angel at the Gate] the bag would not be allowed. He insisted that he had permission. Things were checked on, and it was found that he did have approval from God.

When the bag was opened to see what was so needed by the man, those around exclaimed, “You brought pavement?!”

Imagine a place that is so vast in its riches that gold is used as its pavement! (See May, below.) 


God’s glory is fully visible in the city. Only what is rare or in short supply on earth can furnish images for us to understand the value of heaven’s riches. 

II. The foundations of the city are made of jewels symbolizing the Bride’s privilege of reflecting the glory of God. vss. 19-20 

vs. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.

All of these images emphasize the beauty of the city. God is certainly one who appreciates beauty and symmetry. The  word for “decorated” is kosmeō from which we derive the English word cosmetic. It means “to set in order,” “to adorn,”  or “to decorate.” Most commentators refer to Aaron’s Breastplate in interpreting the jewels. 

Breastplate_on_the_front_of_the_central_Sephardic

← Breastplate on the front of the central Sephardic synagogue in Ramat Gan. Image by Dr. Avishai Teicher Pikiwiki, Israel from Wikipedia)

Exodus 28:29-30 help explain the stones.

29 So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord. 30 And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.

“The jewels of Aaron’s breastpiece are transferred to the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem because the breastpiece was meant to be a miniature version or replica of the Holy of Holies, being made of the same colored material and in the same square shape.” (See Beale, p. 486-7; below.) 

 

III. The gates are of huge Pearls signifying the majestic glory of Christ in His victory over sin, the flesh, and the Devil. vs. 21.  

vs. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

“Pearl” is margarites (Margaret)—a smooth, hard white or bluish-gray round substance from oysters. They were considered far  more valuable in the ancient world than it is today. The OT does not mention pearls in connection with the new heavens and new earth. However, Rabbinic sources do mention them in connection with the age to come. The gates of pearl speak of the spectacular victory of Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, and His sitting down on the right hand of the Father in splendor and majesty.

Gold is transparent when refined of all of its impurities. The above description emphasizes the glory of God, so
visible in the city. “Further, if there were no walls, there would be no description of the splendid gates! Gates provided cities in Asia Minor and elsewhere the best opportunities to flaunt ‘imperial triumphal architecture’; without these gates, Revelation would miss an opportunity to reapply biblical symbolism in its specifically Christocentric way.” (see Keener, p. 495; below.) 

I like the Song “Jerusalem” by CityAlight, St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Castle Hill, Sydney, Australia. It covers the Gospel story, and the last verses project into the future when Jesus Christ will be on the throne in the New Jerusalem. As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over!” 

Such a glorious future should help Christians to stand firm in troubled times. Philippians 3 says all we need to hear to stand firm today in persecution. 

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Next time we will conclude chapter 21:22-27. 

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Allen, C. L. (1987). Home Fires: A Treasury of Wit and Wisdom. Nashville, TN: W. Publishing Group

Apocalyptic. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company. Accessed 26 July 2021 from https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/apocalyptic/

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Fee, G. D. (2010). Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series) Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle version. 

Herrick, G. (2005). The Quiet-Time: What, Why, and How. Accessed 16 July 2021 from https://bible.org/article/quiet-time-what-why-and-how#P10_1647

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Jesus Christ Superstar. (2021). Wikipedia accessed 24 July 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Jesus_Christ_Superstar

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Lewis, C. S. (1952). Mere Christianity. New York City: NY: The Macmillan Company. 

May, J. (2015). “You brought Pavement?!” Accessed 26 July 2021 from http://www.ahomewithgod.com/uncategorized/ you-brought-pavement/

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Packer, J. I. (1986). Your Father Loves You. Chicago, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers.

Sproul, R. C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Swete, H. B. (1909). Apocalypse of St. John. 3rd Edition. London, UK: MacMillan and Co. Ltd. 

Theophany. (2021). Wikipedia. Accessed 17 July 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophany

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 21 The New Jerusalem Descended, Part 2

Revelation 21:15-17

Recreated 3D image of ancient Rome above is from YouTube. You can view the (1min:32sec) panoramic view at https://youtu.be/8Wuwa3UllKA

John sees the New Jerusalem as it was descending from God in Revelation 21:1-14. Now in 21:15-21 the New Jerusalem has taken the place of the old order on the earth. We should also remember that John prior to the appearance of the New Jerusalem, had witnessed the destruction of Babylon. As one theologian points out “The brightness of God’s work is best seen against the dark backdrop of evil as it is destroyed” (see pictures below).  

The_Great_Day_of_His_Wrath_-_Google_Art_Project

(1) Babylon destroyed is the dark backdrop.

eternity

(2) the New Jerusalem is established on earth as the pure and glorious bride of the Lamb.

We need to understand that the New Jerusalem is of God’s doing, and not of man’s making! The City/Bride descended from God to the earth. 

Let’s see some application out of these verses for the church of all ages.

I. God secures His people forever against contamination and harm. vs. 15

vs. 15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 

A thing can be measured for: (1) preservation or (2) destruction or (3) restoration. The comments on 11:1 give us the  best significance of “measuring” here—the worshipers are restored and marked out for preservation. In 11:1, God is pledging to protect his Church while she carries out her testimony in the world. Now in Rev. 21:15, God is pledging to preserve His church from all evil and calamity forever.

“This measuring of the city-temple here figuratively represents the placing of God’s boundaries around the city by which it is protected from harm and from the entrance of any form of evil.” (see Beale, p. 482; below.) 

The background for this passage is:

Zechariah 1:16—16 “Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.”
Zechariah 2:1-2—1 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand! 2 Then I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.”
Zechariah 2:10-11—Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. 11 And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.

Old_City_of_Jerusalem_map_by_Survey_of_Palestine

Survey of Palestine, 1936. Wikimedia Commons 

By comparing the description of the New Jerusalem, we can see John does not have in mind the old landscape of Palestine as being restored. “The measuring is thus the same as the sealing of believers pictured in 7:3.” (see Beale, p. 482, below.) 


Our Knowledge about Heaven now is Small

We know very little about heaven, but I once heard a theologian describe it as “an unknown region with a well-known inhabitant,” and there is not a better way to think of it than that.

Richard Baxter expresses the thought in these lines:

My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim,
But tis’ enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with him.

To those who have learned to love and trust Jesus, the prospect of meeting him face to face and being with him forever is the hope that keeps us going, no matter what life may throw at us. (see Packer, below.)


Babylon of old

3D Picture of Ancient Babylon (https://rezatayebi.cgsociety.org/fr0k/babylon-era-of-cyrus)

II. God Himself dwells in that city with His people. vs. 16

vs. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 

A stadion is about 220 yards—”a measure of length comprising 600 Greek feet, or 625 Roman feet, or 125 Roman paces 12,000 stadia would be about 1,500 miles.” (from Bible Hub)  This means that it is a 1,500 mile cube.  This distance is about the Mississippi River to the Pacific ocean in length. But it is a cube so that distance would be the height, the width, and the length all 1,500 miles. It is obvious that John sees a symbol for the City and the Bride combined. It is a view of God’s people in the eternal state. 

H. B. Swete notes that the cube appears in the OT in the following places: 

1. The altar of burnt offering in Exodus 27:1.
2. The incense altar in Exodus 30:2.
3. The High Priest’s Breastplate in Exodus 28:16ff. (not including the width) 
4. Ezekiel’s new city and temple in Ezekiel 40:3ff.
5. The Holy of Hollies in Solomon’s temple. 

The entire city and inhabitants are a temple (sanctuary). 

Unasailable Ancient City

Image of an ancient unassailable city with high walls and secure gates. (Pinterest) 


Will my pets be in Heaven?

We cannot visualize heaven’s life and the wise man will not try to do so. Instead he will dwell on the doctrine of heaven, where the redeemed will find all their heart’s desire: joy with their Lord, joy with his people, and joy in the ending of all frustration and distress and in the supply of all wants.

What was said to the child—”If you want sweets and hamsters in heaven, they’ll be there”—was not an evasion but a witness to the truth that in heaven no felt needs or longings go unsatisfied. What our wants will actually be, however, we hardly know, except the first and foremost: we shall want to be “always…with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).


III. God ensures that our fellowship and communion with Him will never end. vs. 17

vs. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 

The wall is approximately 200 feet thick. A cubit is “traditionally the distance from the elbow to the end of the fingers, about eighteen inches.” (from Bible Hub) Again, we are reading symbols for spiritual truths. Nothing sinful or unclean will ever enter into the New Jerusalem. 

It does not imply that there are enemies attempting to assail the city. The image would have spoken to the first century audience in Asia Minor who had fears of invasion from Parthia. It ought to speak to us in the 21st century of God as our defense.


C. S. Lewis’ Desire for another World

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” 

Little Girl’s Imagination

A little girl was taking an evening walk with her father. Wonderingly, she looked up at the stars and exclaimed; “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!” (see Allen, below.) 


Most of us are regular people doing our duty where we are. Christians are considered to be little people not worthy of consideration. Rome’s monuments would have made marginal people feel smaller. Looking away from Rome’s monuments, religion, and buildings to God, ought to set us in proper prospective. The New Jerusalem described here should cause us in the 21st Century to look away from all other enticing things to Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Michael Card sings about the New Jerusalem. 

Next week we will look at the materials that make up the vision of the New Jerusalem. 

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Allen, C. L. (1987). Home Fires: A Treasury of Wit and Wisdom. Nashville, TN: W. Publishing Group

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Fee, G. D. (2010). Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series) Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle version. 

Herrick, G. (2005). The Quiet-Time: What, Why, and How. Accessed 16 July 2021 from https://bible.org/article/quiet-time-what-why-and-how#P10_1647

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Lewis, C. S. (1952). Mere Christianity. New York City: NY: The Macmillan Company. 

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Packer, J. I. (1986). Your Father Loves You. Chicago, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers.

Sproul, R. C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Swete, H. B. (1909). Apocalypse of St. John. 3rd Edition. London, UK: MacMillan and Co. Ltd. 

Theophany. (2021). Wikipedia. Accessed 17 July 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophany

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 21 The New Jerusalem Descending, Part 1

Revelation 21:9-14

Image above is of a 14th Century Tapestry of John the Apostle seeing the New Jerusalem descending from God to Earth (Public Domain image by Octave 444 ). 

The theme of Chapter 21 is—

Christ will fully consummate His kingdom in the end by renewing heaven and earth, and filling them with His resurrected, glorified people.

Structure of Chpater 21_1-22_5

I made the Chart above based on information in Beale’s Commentary, p. 463. “This section further interprets the yet-future-fulfillment of Ezekiel by collapsing temple, city, Garden of Eden, and new creation into one end-time picture portraying the reality of God’s communion with His people.” (see Beale, p. 476, below.) “This opening paragraph [21:1-8] serves the twin purposes of both introducing the final events (21:9 through 22:5) and bringing closure to what has immediately preceded.” (see Fee, G. D.; p. 290; below.) 


Application of Revelation 21:1-22:5

This section of Revelation deals with the eternal destiny of God’s people. It had application for the first century church on earth and it has application for the church in each age until the Second Coming of Christ. The earthly Church ought to aspire to her eternal “blueprint” given by God in Revelation 21:1-22:5. 

(1) We get the privilege of setting our hearts on imitating the “New Jerusalem” as a model for the church now, and not seeking to conform the Church to the current political-religious movements in our society. 

(2) We have ample resources to resist the “Prostitute-of-Babylon” culture of our own age. 

Our current culture seeks to bring in a secular utopia by human means. It seeks to destroy all that is past so a new utopia will appear and take its place. This is not God’s blueprint from His Word. God ushers in the New Jerusalem by His own power.


This section of Revelation from 21:1-22:5 gives a view both of the “hidden Church” during this age and the “revealed Church” in the age to come. (see Beale, p. 476; below). 

This vision emphasizes (1) what we will have in eternity; and then, (2) what we are building now based upon eternal values.

I. Believers are Christ’s Bride, and His covenant people on earth, and thus are headed for the New Heavens and Earth. vs. 9

vs. 9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 

Compare Revelation 17:1—One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.

Roman Madam in a Brothal 3

Isabella Rossellini (daughter of Ingrid Bergman and film director Roberto Rossellini) as Balbina, the Madam of a Roman Brothel in the TV-Epix TV Series “Domina.” 

Jewish-Wedding

A Jewish Wedding under a huppah—symbolizing the home that the couple will build together. (Image from tasc-creationscience.org in the public domain.)

The desire of God is to build His house out of human beings redeemed and headed to the New Heavens and Earth. The question is—(1) what kind of “house” are we building here on earth and (2) which “pattern” are we using? I am not referring to architecture of a meeting place for a local church. I am referring to a spiritual house for God to use in saving people and making disciples of them. 

Compare I Peter 1:4-6—

4 As you come to him [Christ], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone  chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

The contrast of the Bride with the Prostitute is deliberate. The Prostitute is an “prototype” of the Satanic world system set in opposition to God which expresses itself in Antichrist’s aim to rid the earth of Christians. 

II. Christ’s people have a view of this present world from God’s perspective in His Word. vs. 10

vs. 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God…

Compare Revelation 17:3—And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.

Note the difference of locations for viewing the Bride and for the Prostitute. 

“Desert” is herēmon—”barren, empty, desolate, wilderness place.” From a barren place, John can best perceive the terrible, sinful character of the Prostitute.

Patmos-Cave-of-the-Apocalypse_2

Aegean Travels image of the Grotto where John slept and received the Revelation visions.
The gate protects the ledge at the bottom of the wall where allegedly John lay his head to sleep.

In order to see Christ’s Bride, the Spirit takes John to “a great (megas) and high (hupsēlos) mountain (oras). From such an exalted height John can best appreciate the exalted Bride of the Lamb.

John in seclusion reading his bible

Each of us needs to have a private space where we go in the morning to have a few vital moments with our Lord before we begin the day. There “on the heights” of detachment with our Bibles, we get a renewed vision both of our world from God’s perspective and our place in it.

Note the picture left with St. John receiving the visions though an Angel. His Bible is open before him. (Image from Wikimedia Commons in the public domain.)

“In order to worship God properly we need strength and consolation in the Christian life. [We especially need both] strength to faithfully obey and consolation when we fail. In particular, we need strength to pray, to meditate on Scripture in Christ’s presence, and to obey what God makes known to us.” (See Herrick, below.)

I believe personally that John saw visions which he expressed through Old Testament passages. John is updating OT prophecy in light of Christ’s appearing and work on the cross. 

III. When Christ’s glory is manifested, the Church is now, and later will be fully, transformed. vs. 11. 

vs. 11 …having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 

“The jasper is an opaque, impure variety of quartz. It comes in red, yellow, and some duller colors” (Biblical Almanac). The light is crystal clear. This brilliant display is caused by the presence of God within the city. His glory lights it. 


God’s Glory

glorious-light-rays-green“It is hard for us to understand exactly what God’s glory may look like, but the various descriptions of it in Scripture seem to indicate that it will be the most beautiful sight we will ever experience. All of the goodness and beauty we see in the present will be nothing in comparison to the refulgent glory of God. As we think on the Lord’s glory, let us be concerned to reflect His beauty and goodness in all that we do and say.” (see Sproul, R. C., below). 

Moses and the Burning BushThe theologians call a believer’s first sight of God in heaven the beatific vision (the blessed sight). “That blessedness in view in 1 John [4:1-3] is the beatific vision. It is so wonderful that the vision itself brings with it the fullness of the blessing.” (see Sproul, R. C. below) A glorious light display usually accompanied a theophany—”an event where the manifestation of a deity occurs in an observable way. Specifically, it refers to the temporal and spatial manifestation of God in some tangible form.” An example is the burning bush Moses saw while tending sheep (see Theophany, below.) (image right from Pinterest.)

I Timothy 6:15-16 gives an accurate depiction of God’s presence in heaven now— 15 He…is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

We will see Jesus in His human body, but heaven is a created place and the Angels dwell with this theophany of unapproachable light. 


Earthly Rulers’ False Glory

Caesar AugustusCaesar Augustus is remembered as the first and greatest of the Roman emperors. By political skill and military power he eliminated his enemies, expanded the empire, and lifted Rome from the clutter of rundown neighborhoods into a city of marble statues and temples. Adoring Roman citizens referred to Augustus as “the divine father and savior” of the human race.

The Bible presents Caesar Augustus as only an actor on God’s stage of history. Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. Without the decree of earthly Caesar, Joseph and Mary would not have traveled to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy about Jesus being born there. 

Image above left is Caesar Augustus dressed as Pontifex Maximus (Chief Priest of Rome). From Wikipedia. 

As his forty-year reign came to an end, his official last words were, “I found Rome a city of clay but left it a city of marble.”

According to Livia Drusilla, his wife, he assumed he was only an actor and his last words actually were—

“Have I played the part well? Then applaud as I exit.” (quoted in Our Daily Bread Canada). 

We must remember no matter how glorious a world leader appears to the outside world, he is merely an actor on God’s stage. In the end, the actors (all anti-Christian world leaders) depart this world’s stage to stand before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to give account of their actions. 


IV. Christ provides ultimate security for all His people who are citizens of the New Jerusalem. vss. 12-14. 

vs. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 

The walls, etc. symbolize the security of the saints. They are not necessary for protection from anything evil since all evil people were consigned to Gehenna in Chapter 20.

vs. 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 

The numerous gates symbolize the accessibility to the city.

vs. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The names on the gates and foundations symbolize inclusion—all believers both Jew and Gentile merged into the Bride of Christ. 

Note that the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are on the gates, and the names of the twelve apostles are on the foundations. This fact symbolizes that the ancient people of Israel and the “new Israel” are united in eternity. God does not have two peoples for all eternity. In Christ, the barriers are broken down. Compare Ephesians 2:11-22

Revelation 21:9-14 is an expansion of the theme in Rev. 21:2—the Bride of Christ.

Next time we will look at 21:15-21 which gives us an expansion on Rev. 21:6 the Tabernacle of God.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Fee, G. D. (2010). Revelation (New Covenant Commentary Series) Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle version. 

Herrick, G. (2005). The Quiet-Time: What, Why, and How. Accessed 16 July 2021 from https://bible.org/article/quiet-time-what-why-and-how#P10_1647

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Sproul, R. C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Theophany. (2021). Wikipedia. Accessed 17 July 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theophany

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 21 The New Heavens and Earth, Part 3

Revelation 21:7-8

Image above is from https://youtu.be/xI6DBVATM1Q

As we saw in the last post, Chapter 21 teaches—

Christ will consummate His kingdom in the end by renewing heaven and earth, and filling them with His resurrected, glorified people.

Let’s continue from last week’s post—

III. God will establish close family ties with His people making each a child of His own and a sibling of all other family members. vs. 7

vs. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 

John is not speaking of a select group of Christians. He is speaking to all Christians. Compare Romans 8:38-39

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

The promise connected to these verses in Romans 8 is the essence of the covenant—a personal relationship with God through Christ.

Covenant defined

Compare Genesis 17:7…I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. [ESV]

Compare the Genesis verse with Exodus 6:7—I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. [ESV]

IV. Nothing harmful or sinful will be permitted into God’s newly restored heavens and eart. vs. 8

vs. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

John uses the contrast “but” (de in Greek) to indicate that this list stands in marked contrast to the people just mentioned above.


An Example of Faith without Full Understanding

The question of what about those who’ve never heard of Jesus always comes up in the discussion of Christianity’s necessary exclusiveness. John 14:5-6 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (ESV; emphasis mine.)

We as humans do not have all the information about the lost. God does.

Bethan Lloyd-JonesBethan Lloyd-Jones, an M.D. herself and wife of the famous preacher, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., at Westminster Chapel, London, UK; had a good answer to that question. She always referred to Abraham’s intercession for the city of Sodom. Genesis 18:25 Far be it from You to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from You! Shall not the Judge† of all the earth do what is just?”

† The word “judge” (in Hebrew shaphat) at the end of this verse does not refer to a trial judge. “The “Judge” of a Semitic people was ruler, judge, and advocate. God does not judge after the sight of the eyes, or the hearing of the ears, but righteous judgement. Cf. Deuteronomy 32:4; Isaiah 11:3. (see Ryle, H. E., below.) 

We may not understand God’s ways with other people, but He always does the right thing in regard to them. Of this we can be sure even though we do not understand God’s ways. As an older Christian said to me, “Where we cannot trace the hand of God, we can trust His heart.”


Note these are a list of sinners who refuse(d) Christ’s offer of forgiveness.

  1. The fearful cowardly, timid (in Greek deilos; mentioned only 3 times in the NT; these are afraid of allegiance to Christ in times of persecution in John’s day (and in the future).
  2. The unbelieving faithless, disbelieving (in Greek apistos; these refuse to commit themselves to Christ.
  3. The vile, detestable, abhorrent (in Greek bdelussomai; this occurs in its perfect participial form (ebdelugmenos—”those who were in the past and continue to be in the present vile persons”); this word is used regularly to describe those who worship idols. (In classical Greek the word bdeō meant to “break wind silently and send out such a stench that others distance themselves from the vile odor”). (BDB Hebrew Lexicon.)
  4. Murders, killers (in Greek phoneus; they are such because they have killed the saints.
  5. Sexually immoral, fornicators, whore-mongers (in Greek pornos; this the most general word In the Bible that is used to describe any and all forms of deviant, anti-Biblical sexual behavior.
  6. Those who practice magic arts, sorcerers (in Greek pharmakeus); this word is used of one who mixes potions and poisons in order to manipulate people through so-called magic arts; it includes the use of drugs to achieve ‘religious experiences,’ (Timothy Leary’s “God in a bottle,” a reference to LSD.) This also includes all attempts to alter one’s consciences by any drug. It doesn’t include experimental use when one is young. In other words, use of mind-altering drugs once or twice or even more is not an unpardonable sin. It is a problem when mind-altering drugs become the controlling desire of one’s life. Paul makes this clear in Romans 12:1-2—1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV; emphasis mine.)
  7. Idolaters (in Greek aidōlolatrēs); those who worship idols.
  8. Liars (in Greek psuedēs; note the definite article is used with the adjective as a substantive—the (all) liars.”

John is describing a group of individuals who possess a certain character. He is not describing individuals who may have once, or twice, etc. done these things. Some struggle with substance abuse all their lives, but they are struggling to quit. Those who reject Christ’s forgiveness are settled in their practice of these sins. God condemns those who refuse to repent of sin and turn to Him. Those who repent and throw themselves on the mercy of God in Christ are saved from this lifestyle. The exclusiveness with Christianity is asserted by Jesus Himself. Dr. Alexander Whyte used to say, “The perseverance of the saints is made up of multiplied new beginnings.”

In every place of ministry there has been at least one timid soul who was fearful he or she had committed the unpardonable sin; and, therefore, would absent themselves from Communion. I always assured the person she or he has not. The person who has committed that sin did so after hardening his heart, and he would not entertain such thoughts as, “I might have committed the unpardonable sin.” The only unpardonable sin is the rejection of Christ as Lord and Savior for the final time.


Prayers with the dying

I heard a man was in the hospital who was a notorious profligate in our community, or at least he had been in his youth and middle-aged adulthood. People said, “Don’t go visit him; he is a vile man and will curse you out.”

Man in Hospital bedI had heard all the curse words before, so I went. I spoke with him in the bed he knew he would not arise from again. I had visited him often when he was wheelchair bound. We would sit on the side porch of his house with another friend and just talk. I never had heard him curse at me before.

We talked briefly at the hospital. At the end of my visit I asked him, as I do all hospital patients, “Could I have a prayer with you before I go?”

He replied calmly, “I would like that.” I prayed, as I do with all persons I visit, “Lord, forgive us of our sins.” I then left him, and he died the following week. I believe I will see him in heaven.

You might think that I “let him up light.” Are we not in the “salvation business”? I do not play the attorney for the prosecution! I hold out hope for the dying.

For the living, I usually urge repentance of sins. And will pray this prayer above with the repentant who is not at death’s door.

I heard of a man who put off the offer of forgiveness of sins for a later time. “Not at present, but maybe tomorrow.” The pastor said, “Tomorrow is not promised.”

The man countered, What about the thief on the cross!

The preacher replied, “Which one?” 

We must remember one refused salvation. Another one accepted it. 

The final question is, “Will we let Jesus save us from our sins.”


Dr. Alexander Whyte Administering Communion

Portrait_of_Alexander_WhyteIn the summer of 1974, I spent several weeks in Scotland working with smaller churches so they could have Vacation Bile Schools. I spent most of my time in the border areas and began at and ended at Edinburgh. I saw Free St. George’s Kirk where Alexander Whyte ministered from 1870-1916.

He was a “hard preacher” when it came to sin. One older man said after hearing a sermon, “Yon man was a devil of child, I suspect.”

However, Dr. Whyte was kind in preaching forgiveness and grace. One day he was serving communion and came to a young girl sobbing. She tried to push the cup away. He looked down at her and lifted her hands with the cup to her lips saying, “Go ahead, Lass. It’s for sinners!” One of my earlier pastors added, “The Lord’s Supper is for sinners who are tired of their sinning.” (Image of Whyte above is from Wikimedia Commons.)


Romans 5:8 reminds us “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We must always remember salvation is by grace through faith.

Next time we will see the meaning of the Bride of the Lamb and the New Jerusalem.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Rushdoony, R. J. (2002). Genesis: Commentaries on the Pentateuch,Vol. 1. Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon Foundation. Kindle Edition.

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Ladd, G. E. (1972). A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition 

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Ryle, H. E. (1914). Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges Volume I Genesis with Notes. Cambridge, UK: at the University Press.

Sproul, R.C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, a Division of Ligonier Ministries.

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 21 The New Heavens and Earth, Part 2

Revelation 21:5-8

Image above is from Wikimedia Commons in the public domain.

As we saw in the last post, Chapter 21 teaches—

Christ will consummate His kingdom in the end by renewing heaven and earth, and filling them with His resurrected, glorified people.

I. God will make a new cosmos out of the old for His dwelling with His people. vs. 5

vs. 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” [ESV]


Funeral Text

Behold I make all things newI use this verse often at funerals, especially if the deceased has gone through intense suffering in their earthly lives. (It doesn’t matter if some of the suffering was brought on by bad behavior.) Rev. 21:5 is an assurance that nothing sinful or harmful will come into the renewed order. This means glorified people will not experience any harmful memories!

The word “new” is kainos in Greek, as we saw last post, “new in the sense of not used up.” God will take the old elements of our universe and remake them into something new.

“Salvation in the Biblical sense is not only the salvation of the souls of men; it includes the redemption of the body and even of their physical environment.” (See Ladd, pg. 278, below)


God’s environmental plan is for mankind to do two things:

1. The cultural mandate—”Subdue the earth.” Mankind is given dominion over the earth in order to bring it under subjection to him in order that he might have a place in which to live. See Genesis 1:26-27

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 

We should take note that man (‘adam in Hebrew) is the generic name for God’s creation of humans. Both male (zakar) female (neqebah) are included in God’s mandate. Also, note dominion (radah in Hebrew) is given to male and female. God established two sexes to complement each other and exercise dominion together.

2. The stewardship mandate—”Tend the earth.” In this mandate mankind responsible for the care of the earth’s environment. We must not destroy the cosmos for our comfort, but we must tend is as a garden given to us by God to tend. See Genesis 2:15

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Here in the last book of the Bible is a reference to God as Creator. “There can be no understanding of the God of Scripture, nor of Scripture, without an acceptance of creationism. The goal of the evolutionists is not to present assured and substantiated facts but, first, to replace God with chance.” (see Rushdoony, [Vol. 1, pg. 19], below).

The foundation upon accurate theology is developed is the Creator/creature distinction. God is with us and yet He is appreciably different than we are and the cosmos!

Everyones a Theologian

“The first sentence of sacred Scripture sets forth the affirmation upon which everything else is established: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1: 1). Three fundamental points are affirmed in that first sentence of Scripture: (1) there was a beginning; (2) there is a God; and, (3) there is a creation.” (See Sproul, below.)

We must care for the earth without worshiping nature. God’s ultimate environmental plan is to redeem the earth and renovate it for His people as a place to live for all eternity. Until God acts, the earth cannot be made into a “humanistic utopia” for mankind by Marxist teachers.

The book left can be obtained from https://www.ligonier.org/ or Amazon.


A Personal Testimony for Sproul’s Book

Dr. Sproul’s teaching has saved me from a number of pitfalls in ministry. We used Berkhof’s Summary of Christian Doctrine as a kind of “cliff-notes” to Berkhof’s Systematic Theology theology in Seminary. I noted that Everyone’s a Theologian has replaced Berkhof’s Summary by my theology professor, Dr. Douglas Kelley, in his classes. The difference I believe is that Dr. Sproul deals with 21st Century problems we face in Theology.


II. God will establish His new order, and will meet all of His people’s needs. vs. 6

vs. 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Compare the last sentence in this verse to John 4—

10 Jesus answered [the Samaritan woman], “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring† of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

pēgē = a fountain, spring gushing water


A memory from “Old Camp Parker” in Upper Greenville County, SC

Blythe Shoals Rd cabinThis verse in Revelation reminded me of an earlier event involving a cool spring. When I was in school from grade 7-12, we went to band camp in the summer every year for two weeks. We were taught how to march. We had two different kinds of programs we prepared to march for. (1) Military maneuver marching for half-time shows at football games and competitions; (2) Military ordered marches for Christmas parade competitions when the football season ended.(by the way the prize money helped for the band’s expenses ($500.00 at small town Christmas parages and more for larger ones ($500.00 in 1968 = $3,667.51 adjusted for inflation in 2021).

We learned the commands and steps on the field next to the open air pavilion. Then, we marched the back roads surrounding Camp Parker (Blythe Shoals to older folks) to learn a 90 degree turn left or right as a group, etc. I was new to the band that year (1968). Those back roads were grueling for new people. The heat radiated from the tar and gravel coating on the road.

Water from springWe marched for a good while when we came to a house (similar to the one above left) that sat back in the woods, but still close to the road. The command to halt was given and we stopped, but were not given the command “parade rest.” We could all see out of the corner of our eyes a pipe coming down from the hills emptying a constant stream of fresh, cool water into a barrel, and we could hear it distinctly. Mr. James B. Senn, our band director, sent someone to the porch to ask if we could fill a canteen with some of their water. The folks consented, and he filled that canteen with the fresh cool spring water. Mr. Senn and an officer passed through the columns and gave each new band member a cap-full of that water. (Image above from Pinterest.) I can still in my mind feel that cool fresh water on my tongue!

When I read these two Scripture passages about springs of water, my mind goes back to that day on the back roads around Camp Parker. It helped with physical thirst, but Jesus promises complete satisfaction of body and soul in his new heavens and earth. 


John uses the perfect tense of ginomai (“to become or happen”). It reads literally “it has happened.” At this point in the vision the new order has appeared on the earth. All that follows is a description of the total satisfaction that the new heavens and earth provide. For the first time since its creation earth provides full satisfaction to mankind; God is central in the new order. All serve and love him supremely.

Alpha and Omega

The Greek letters Alpha and Omega serve as a brachylogy. The outer limits are mentioned in order to include everything in between in the figure of speech. God is all-in-all in the new heavens and new earth. “Salvation is beautifully depicted by the image of drinking at the spring of life.” The mention of this at this juncture in the book of Revelation does not mean that salvation will be offered to people at that time. It is mentioned pastorally to the readers and hearers of Revelation from John’s day to the Second Coming. After that, it will be too late to drink. John knows that mention of the offer of salvation coupled with the bliss of the new heavens and new earth will create a hunger and thirst in the hearts of some. He mentions the offer to show how people may participate in the new order. Outside of salvation through the God appointed means there is no way to be present in that order and enjoy its bliss. (Image above of “AΩ” is from Wikimedia Commons.)

Next time we will conclude the examination on the New Heavens and Earth.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Rushdoony, R. J. (2002). Genesis: Commentaries on the Pentateuch,Vol. 1. Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon Foundation. Kindle Edition.

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Ladd, G. E. (1972). A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition 

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Ryle, H. E. (1914). Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges Volume I Genesis with Notes. Cambridge, UK: at the University Press.

Sproul, R.C. (2014). Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, a Division of Ligonier Ministries.

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© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Revelation 21 The New Heavens and Earth, Part 1

Revelation 21:1-4

Image above from Pinterest.

Some commentators have mistakenly concluded that Rev. 21:1ff is a description of an earthly millennial kingdom. Note the following non-millennial presuppositions about Rev. 21.

  1. The Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation passages deal with the full expression of the kingdom of God—the new heavens and new earth. This is not a description of a mere earthly millennium.
  2. The former heavens and earth are said to have passed away by the time 21:1 occurs.
  3. Pain, sorrow, tears, etc. are no longer existence when 21:4 occurs.
  4. All sinners are in Gehinna when Rev. 21 occurs—21:8.
  5. That the gates of the city are not shut (21:25) is merely symbolic of the permanent security of God’s people. There is no need to bar admittance to anyone.The same symbolism is found in the angelic sentinels, as well.
  6. Most of the events in Rev. 21-22 are assigned by all to the eternal state. To pick out certain events and make them “earthly millennial” is to mar the focus on the very end from 17-22.

Chapter 21 teaches—

Christ will consummate His kingdom in the end by renewing heaven and earth, and filling them with His resurrected, glorified  people.

I. Sin, Satan, and his emissaries must be removed before the Kingdom is established on earth. vs. 1

vs. 1 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. 

eternity

The Eternal State of Man pictured from Pinterest

“From the smoke and pain and heat [of the preceding scenes] it is a relief to pass into the clear, clean atmosphere of the eternal morning where the breath of heaven is sweet and the vast city of God sparkles like a diamond in the radiance of his presence.” (quoted in Johnson, A. F.; pg. 776; see below.) 

I like the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s summary of what life in the new heavens and earth will be like.

Q. 38. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?

A. At the resurrection, believers will be raised up in glory, will be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and will be made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity. (see Snoke, D., below.)

Now that’s a future we can all look forward to!

The occurrence of the phrase “Then I saw” (kai eidon) is an indication that John is seeing a new set of visions. We should note there are two different words in Greek for “new.”

  1. Neos = “new with reference to time, freshly produced.” In English we would say, “It’s brand new!”
  2. Kainos = “new in the sense of not being used up, but new to the one who has it.” In this sense we would call a used car “new” because it is new to us.

model-honda-new-model-2021

If I buy the 2021 model in 2021, I buy a “brand new” car.

honda_accord_a1275984008b3713478_orig

If I buy a used 2008 model in 2021, it is new to me but old in time.

The word describing the “new heaven and new earth” is kainos. God will not create an entirely new universe for the eternal state. He will renovate the old universe by removing all that is sinful. II Peter 3:10-13 gives details of the earth’s future destruction—

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

God will use the old materials, purified from sin, to create the new universe for mankind’s eternal dwelling place.

Note Romans 8:19-22—

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

God always intended for mankind to live on the earth. We saw this in Rev. 4-6. In the eternal state, God will purge the earth of all that is inconsistent with his holiness and our happiness and recreate it as an eternal dwelling place for us. The verb “passed away” (aperchomai in Greek) is used of someone “departing from his house.” The tense of the verb indicates a simple past event. At this point in the future, the old universe will have passed away and a new one will have taken its place.

C. S. Lewis made some interesting observations about the new heavens and earth in his final volume of the Chronicles of Narnia—The Last Battle. The clip below is short (2:09) and will help in our conception of the new heavens and earth.

John’s addition of the phrase “and there was no longer any sea” has been interpreted in various ways—

  1. Older commentators look upon this as John’s own personal longing for the sea that surrounded him in exile to be gone.
  2. Biblical theologians look upon this a reference to the biblical image of the sea as a place of uncertainty. Absence of the sea answers a universal need for stability and security.
  3. Critical scholars seek a syncretistic understanding. To them the sea is a symbol of the chaos monster spoken of in various Semitic religions.

It seems best to interpret this image in its context in Revelation. The sea is a symbol of the nations set in opposition to God. Compare the following Scripture references to the Sea in Revelation—

Revelation 13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.

Revelation 17:1-2 1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

Revelation 17:15 And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.

Therefore, in light of the above evidence from the book of Revelation itself, it seems best to interpret the sea as a symbol of the nations set against God. Compare the following OT passage which supports this conclusion—

Isaiah 57:20-21 20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.
21 There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

The fact that the sea is removed in the new heavens and the new earth means that there will be no more source from which evil can arise.

II. All of created reality will be renewed and blessings will come down from God for His people. vs. 2

vs. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

John reports exactly what he saw. This city is the abode of the redeemed. It is the counterpart of and stands in contrast to Babylon the Great, the abode of the wicked set in opposition to the Lord.

The figure of the city is a metonomy. where an inanimate object stands for an animate one. We speak of the White House as if it were a real person. Instead, we all know that we are referring to the President who resides there. In the same way, the city is spoken of as if it were a real person. In reality, the persons are the inhabitants—the Bride of the Lamb.


Special Note

Some theologians/commentators conclude that the city never makes it all the way to earth. The text says that the city is seen coming down, but it never says that it makes it all the way. These commentators conclude that the redeemed will live in a “satellite city” hovering forever above the earth. This is a terribly misguided conclusion based upon a wrong view of the eternal separation of Israel and the church.

New_Jerusalem_moebius

Those who take this view believe that Israel will dwell on the earth forever, since in their estimation Israel is God’s so-called earthly people. The church will not dwell on the earth since they are God’s so-called heavenly people.

In the next verse it is clear that God’s habitation has come down to man. Thus, it is abundantly clear that John sees the city descend from heaven, where God has prepared it for man, to the earth, which is mankind’s destined abode for all eternity. (image from Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud’s comic art.)


III. God will dwell with His people in the new heavens and earth. vs. 3

vs. 3 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.

This verse contradicts the view that the New Jerusalem will remain in another place than earth. 

The word “dwelling” is skenē in Greek. It literally means “tent” or “tabernacle. “The word occurs in the OT to describe the Tabernacle. It was the earthly symbol of God’s presence with Israel. The verb “live” is skenoō. It is the verbal form of the noun skenē. In the descent of the New Jerusalem to earth, God has come to dwell with mankind forever.

Compare John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt [literally, “tabernacled”] among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only [“unique” = monogenēs] Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (ESV).

IV. God will banish all of the effects of sin as He implements His new heavens and earth. vs. 4

vs. 4 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.” 

As we have pointed out before, the tense of the verb is past (aorist) used as a simple past tense (constantive aorist). The old order has passed away at this point in John’s vision. George Eldon Ladd says, “In the new order, all the evils that have burdened and cursed human existence will flee from the presence of God.” (See Ladd, pg. 275, below.)

What we have in Revelation 21 is God’s “New World Order” based on God’s agenda. (And not the one politicians talk about through united effort of persons.) God’s new order will occur when the New Heavens and New Earth appear. It will not be ushered in by mankind on their own initiative and from present resources.

Next time we will look at God’s agenda for His new heavens and earth.

Notes
(Commentaries on which I rely, some without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Ladd, G. E. (1972). A Commentary on the Revelation of John Kindle Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Snoke, D. (2021). Westminster Shorter Catechism in modern English. Accessed 23 June 2021 from https://www.cityreformed.org/uploads/9/8/8/6/98869954/wsc.pdf

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