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New Heaven/New Earth. Revelation 21:1-4 Tuesday , 5 Jul 2011 • Mennonite Church Canada Assembly. Our first Bible study focuses on what is the climax of the book of Revelation! What a place to begin!

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new heaven new earth

New Heaven/New Earth

Revelation 21:1-4

Tuesday, 5 Jul 2011 • Mennonite Church Canada Assembly

beginning with the climax

Our first Bible study focuses on what is the climax of the book of Revelation!

  • What a place to begin!
  • Stanley C. Shenk: Revelation is like an impressionist painting: you need to stand back a ways to understand it—to really see what it is saying. If you get too close, all you may find is distortion!
Beginning with the Climax!
beginning with the climax1

While Revelation rewards close study, I agree that it is crucial to understand the primary affirmations of Revelation before querying the details.

  • So Revelation 21:1-4 is a great place to start!
  • But let’s pause first to get oriented to the book as a whole.
Beginning with the Climax!
revelation getting oriented

Revelation is a wonderful and powerful text written …

  • to affirm the believers in Asia in their worship of God,
  • to reveal the work of Jesus Christ as the Lamb that was slain,
  • to warn the inhabitants of the earth about the judgment coming on all who would give their allegiance elsewhere, and
  • to direct the worship and allegiance of God’s people to their proper object: to God and to the Lamb.
Revelation: Getting Oriented
philip bender s reflections

“The Book of Revelation was written to instruct and strengthen early Christians who were being compelled … to compromise their commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior.

  • Rather than a detailed scenario of future history, ready to be set in motion by a future event (e.g., the rapture), as popular prophecy makes it out to be, …
  • Revelation first addressed Christians in the mid-90s who were facing pressure to … accommodate themselves to the wealth and power of Rome.”
Philip Bender’s Reflections
philip bender s reflections1

“We must not interpret the symbols of Revelation as forecasting specific phenomena in our own day, such as Russia, credit cards, radical Islam, the United Nations, etc.

  • “Rather, we must first ask, ‘What would these vivid and puzzling symbols have meant for the first believers who first read this book?’
  • “Only then can we apply its message to our own time.”
Philip Bender’s Reflections
orientation questions

Who wrote it? A prophet “John,” known to the churches (1:1, 3-4, 9; 10:11; 22:8-10, 18-19).

  • To whom/for whom was this book written? To the seven cities in Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea (1:4, 11; cf. 2–3).
Orientation Questions
orientation questions1

Who wrote it? A prophet “John,” known to the churches (1:1, 3-4, 9; 10:11; 22:8-10, 18-19).

  • To whom/for whom was this book written? To the seven cities in Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea (1:4, 11; cf. 2–3).
  • When was it written? Probably around 95 CE (cf. Irenaeus).
  • Where was it written? On Patmos (1:9-10).
Orientation Questions
orientation questions2

Who wrote it? A prophet “John,” known to the churches (1:1, 3-4, 9; 10:11; 22:7-10, 18-19).

  • To whom/for whom was this book written? To the seven cities in Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea (1:4, 11; cf. 2–3).
  • When was it written? Probably around 95 CE (cf. Irenaeus).
  • Where was it written? On Patmos (1:9-10).
  • What is this book? What kind of literature is it?
    • An apocalypse, a genre that emphasizes direct revelation from God to a human in the form of a story in which God discloses God’s final salvation of humanity and judgment on evil;
    • a prophecy, a genre that emphasizes God’s perspective on human affairs (not necessarily prediction about the future); and
    • a letter.
Orientation Questions
orientation questions3

Why was it written?

    • God gave John a revelation and told him to write it down and send it to the seven churches.
    • John was on Patmos because he was banished there for his prophetic activity: likely for speaking out against the new temple built in Ephesus to honor the Roman emperors, dedicated around 89–90 CE. He was concerned about the spiritual welfare of the believers in Asia facing threats both internal and external.
Orientation Questions
why revelation is important

Canadians probably realize more than those south of the border that they live in the shadow of a world-dominating empire.

  • Revelation is at heart a critique of empire. It has an ethical message particularly relevant for today’s North American church.
  • Revelation is a reminder that the world is in God’s hands.
Why Revelation is Important
to the brink of revelation 21 from where have we come

In the first 20 chapters of Revelation, we have seen a lot of drama: the drama of needing but lacking a redeemer, the announcement of the Lion of Judah … and the appearance of a slain but living and conquering Lamb! Through a circuitous route, we have witnessed the last battle, the binding of Satan, a thousand-year reign of Christ with his followers, the last judgment, and the defeat of Satan.

  • So what’s left?
  • The renewal of heaven and earth … life as it was meant to be!
To the Brink of Revelation 21From Where Have We Come?
revelation 21 1 4

211 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. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.

He will dwell with them as their God;

they will be his peoples,

and God himself will be with them;

4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more;

mourning and crying and pain will be no more,

for the first things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:1-4
new jerusalem

The exact phrase, “New Jerusalem,” appears in the Bible only in Revelation.

  • But the concept clearly comes from the prophets’ expectation of the restoration of Jerusalem (cf. Isa 2:1-5; 65:17-19; Jer 31:38-40; Mic 4:1-4).
  • This vision of a restored Jerusalem—a new Jerusalem—is particularly striking in the third part of Isaiah.
“New Jerusalem”?
isaiah 65 17 19

17 For I am about to create new heavens

and a new earth;

the former things shall not be remembered

or come to mind.

18 But be glad and rejoice forever

in what I am creating;

for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,

and its people as a delight.

19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,

and delight in my people;

no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,

or the cry of distress.

Isaiah 65:17-19
the new jerusalem a broadly shared hope

Tobit 13

9 O Jerusalem, the holy city,

he afflicted you for the deeds of your hands,

but will again have mercy on the children of the righteous. …

15 My soul blesses the Lord, the great King!

16 For Jerusalem will be built as his house for all ages. …

The gates of Jerusalem will be built with sapphire and emerald,

and all your walls with precious stones.

The New Jerusalem: A Broadly Shared Hope
the new jerusalem a broadly shared hope1

Tobit 13

The towers of Jerusalem will be built with gold,

and their battlements with pure gold.

The streets of Jerusalem will be paved

with ruby and with stones of Ophir.

17 The gates of Jerusalem will sing hymns of joy,

and all her houses will cry, ‘Hallelujah!

Blessed be the God of Israel!’

and the blessed will bless the holy name forever and ever.”

The New Jerusalem: A Broadly Shared Hope
testament of dan 5 9 13

9 Therefore when you turn back to the Lord, you will receive mercy,

and he will lead you into his holy place, proclaiming peace to you. …

12And the saints shall refresh themselves in Eden;

the righteous shall rejoice in the New Jerusalem,

which shall be eternally for the glorification of God.

13 And Jerusalem shall no longer undergo desolation,

nor shall Israel be led into captivity,

because the Lord will be in her midst [living among human beings].

The Holy One of Israel will rule over them in humility and poverty,

and he who trusts in him shall reign in truth in the heavens.

Testament of Dan 5:9-13
god s people as god s bride

Even the image of God’s people as God’s bride is not new.

Isaiah 54

6 For the Lord has called you

like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, ….

7 For a brief moment I abandoned you,

but with great compassion I will gather you.

8 In overflowing wrath for a moment

I hid my face from you,

but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,

says the Lord, your Redeemer.

Isaiah 61

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,

my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

he has covered me with the robe of


as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots,

and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,

so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise

to spring up before all the nations.

God’s People as God’s Bride
a city a bride 2 esd 10 25 44

25 While I was talking to her, her face suddenly began to shine exceedingly; her countenance flashed like lightning …. 26 She suddenly uttered a loud and fearful cry, so that the earth shook at the sound. 27 When I looked up, the woman was no longer visible to me, but a city was being built, and a place of huge foundations showed itself. …

38 He answered me and said, “Listen to me, and I will teach you, and tell you about the things that you fear; for the Most High has revealed many secrets to you. … 40 This therefore is the meaning of the vision. 41 The woman who appeared to you a little while ago, … 42 (you do not now see the form of a woman, but there appeared to you a city being built) 43 and who told you about the misfortune of her son—this is the interpretation: 44 The woman whom you saw is Zion, which you now behold as a city being built.

A City, a Bride (2 Esd. 10:25-44)
new jerusalem1

We should not expect to see a city coming down out of the sky in the future.

  • What we should expect is the renewal of all of God’s creation, with God’s peoples at the center of it all—beautiful, renewed, redeemed, restored.
  • The word peoples is plural in v. 3: an inclusive vision.
  • The word for home in v. 3 is skēnē,
    • the same word used of the Tent of Meeting in the OT,
    • related to the verb dwell in v. 3,
    • the same verb that appears in John 1:14:
    • “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
“New Jerusalem”?
the five people you meet in heaven

I have never read The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom.

  • It was on the New York Times Bestseller list for almost two years running (10,000,000 copies, 35 languages).
  • I was offended with the title: yet another syrupy sentimental projection of humanity’s hopes, which, if taken far enough, becomes idolatrous. (I have no idea if this is anywhere close to accurate.)
  • But then I read M. Eugene Boring’s excellent commentary on Revelation. Boring emphasizes that human language goes only so far in its ability to capture what John was seeing in his visions.
  • What kind of language is adequate to express what the consummation of all history will look like?
The Five People You Meet in Heaven?
a paraphrase of 21 3 4

Leader: God will be at home with God’s peoples.

People: Relationships will be restored.

Leader: God will be with us in person!

People: God will wipe every tear from our eyes. Hallelujah!

Leader: There will be no more death!

People: Hallelujah!

Leader: We will no longer see mourning, crying, or pain!

People: Hallelujah!

Leader: For the old struggles have come to an end!

All: Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus!

A Paraphrase of 21:3-4