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Revelation 21 and 22

Chapters 21 & 22: The perspective of John’s first century readers is shaped by two things:  first, persecution and martyrdom are on the way. Its already bad will soon get worse. Second, they are the people of the promise waiting for the Day of the Lord, the decisive moment of salvation and judgment promised by God. In the closing chapters of Revelation John proclaims the Day of the Lord is coming. It will happen. And he reminds his audience that they must remain faithful in the face of persecution to be rewarded on that day.

After heaven and earth flee from the presence of God (20.11) a new heaven and a new earth appear. The first earth, along with the sea (the source of chaos and evil in the ancient world) no longer exists. In the Revelation itself the sea has been portrayed as the origin of cosmic evil (4.6; 12.18; 13.1; 15.2), the nations rebellious to God and who persecute his people (12.18; 13.1), the place of the dead (20.13), the primary location of the world’s idolatrous trade activity (18.10-­‐ 19), as well as literal bodies of water (5.13; 7.1-­‐3; 8.8-­‐9; 10.2, 5-­‐6, 8; 14.7; 16.3).

The new city, the people of God, will exist on this new earth and God will dwell with them on it.  According to G. K. Beale, “This is probably not a portrayal of a literal new creation but a figurative depiction (see on 20.11 and 6.12-­‐15). In light of the qualitative nature of the contrast between ‘new’ creation and ‘first’ creation, it is likely that the meaning of the figurative portrayal is to connote a radically changed cosmos, involving not merely ethical renovation but transformation of the fundamental cosmic structure (including physical elements). Furthermore, ‘there will be no more night’ (22.5; cf. 21.15), which indicates another difference, especially in contrast to Gen. 8.22: ‘While the earth remains… day and night will not cease.’” In other words the creation will be new or transformed in the same way humans are resurrected. The resurrection body is the transformation of the current body (1 Cor. 15.35-­‐44). The new earth will be transformed from the current one.

John, then, stresses the theme of perseverance from chapters 2 & 3. Those who are victorious, in the face of persecution, will inherit the blessing. “I will be their God and they will be my children.” They will enjoy God’s actual presence and his fulfillment of his promises from chapters 2 and 3 which are: they will eat from the tree of life (2.7); not be hurt by the second death (2.11); be given hidden manna and a white stone (2.17); receive authority over the nations (2.26); not have their names blotted out of the Book of Life (3.5); be a pillar in the temple of God (3.12); sit with Christ on his throne  (3.21).

The same cannot be said for the “cowardly” and “unbelieving.” They will not inherit the blessing and God will not be their God. John is here referring to Christians who do not persevere in the face of persecution.

After that John uses two powerful images to describe the Church in the Day of the Lord.  It is the Bride of Christ (21.9) and the New Jerusalem (21.10-14).  Ezekiel promised an eschatological temple for the people of God.  It turns out that God and the Lamb are that temple (21.22) as well as the source of light (21.23-24).  The city itself is Eden restored (22.1-4).

Then John closes the book with an invitation and a warning (22.12-21): “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”  And, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.  And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.”  Finally 22.20: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

Revelation 8 and 9

n Revelation chapter 8 Jesus opens the last seal provoking one half hour of silence in Heaven.  This is a dramatic pause that heightens the anticipation for what is to come, God’s judgment on the earth.  Revelation chapters 8 & 9 draw heavily on the story of the Exodus.  In both cases God pours out judgments (plagues) on the earth.  In both cases the objects of the judgment only harden their hearts.  And in both cases the people of God are in the midst of the plagues but protected from them by God.   The first four plagues involve God sending destruction upon the environment.  The fifth and sixth are two successive waves of demonic assault.  It’s like God is giving the people what they have really been asking for, freedom from Him.  They didn’t bargain on that including direct demonic attack.  The images John uses at this point are based on what would give a first century Roman nightmares and not on 21st century weaponry.  I argued earlier that the so-called “seal judgments” are ongoing difficulties.  John ties them to Jesus breaking of the seals on the scroll to communicate that God is ultimately in control.  Also, these are problems that characterize every era as Jesus advances His kingdom and moves toward the Second Coming.  I think it also makes sense that the judgments in Revelation 8 & 9 have a certain timeless quality about them.  In other words, John is not describing 6 specific and separate events here.  Rather he is describing the ongoing judgment of God which He uses through the eras to offer repentance to people.  The worst is yet to come!  Regardless a first century reader would see the Roman Empire as the object of the judgment in these chapters and would read (or listen to) them in anticipation that God would soon act.