14 November 2007Revelation 21:1-7
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them". (v.3)
Our theme of God standing alongside those who remain faithful in
the face of testing and suffering, and declaring them to be his
people, finds, perhaps, its richest and fullest expression here at
the end of Revelation.
The aim of the book was to encourage and exhort its readers to stand firm and hold fast to their faith in Jesus Christ as the one who had died and been raised again, and not to give in to the pressure to either renounce or compromise that faith when confronted by Roman persecution or by 'false teachings'.
Quite what these 'false teachings' were we don't really know, but evidently there were a lot of them around, many of them denying that Jesus Christ was, in some way, to be identified as God. (The question of the precise relationship between 'Jesus' and 'God' was something that occupied the finest minds in the Church for several more centuries.) But what is clear is that John's readers were to regard themselves as the true people of God, holding the true faith in Christ. And here, in this passage, is the ultimate hope that keeps them going.
John describes a 'new heaven' (not like the old one, which was populated by all sorts of evil 'principalities and powers', according to ancient mythology); a 'new earth' (not like the old one, under the rule of Rome); and a 'new Jerusalem' (not like the old one, which was the focus of the Judaism which they had increasingly rejected).
And the 'new Jerusalem', like the old Israel, is the 'bride' of God - God's chosen people - and God will make his presence known among them, just as he had done in the time of the Exodus from Egypt. And even death (symbolised by the 'sea' in verse 1) will no longer have power over them. And God (or Jesus - it's not quite clear who) speaks from his throne to assure his people that all this is, indeed, as he has said. Those who stand firm in their faith will, indeed, be revealed as the true children of God.
We may understand the universe rather differently from when John wrote these words. How might that affect the way we read them?
Some readers may think that the destruction of heaven and earth is a rather high price to pay for the faithful to be revealed as God's children. What do you think?
Verse 8 goes on to describe the fate of those who are not God's children. Why do you think our reading stopped at verse 7?