December 21, 2011

Thursday after the Fourth Sunday in Advent

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 144, 2 Sam. 7:18, Lk. 1:46-56
Evening - Ps. 145, Zeph. 3:14, Rev. 22:1-9

Commentary
Revelation 22:1-9

Verses 1-3 continue the description of the New Jerusalem. The river of the water of life flows from the throne of God (22:1) and the tree of life lines its banks. Both symbolise eternal life given by God through Jesus Christ.

The curse is gone (22:3). The curse is the condition into which humanity and nature have fallen as the consequence of sin (Gen. 3:7-24). Sickness and death are part of the curse. Natural disasters are part of the curse. Wars, oppression, greed, strife, and all the social ills that plague humanity are part of it, as are the personal angst and alienation that is felt by so many people. These things are the natural results of sin, for in them we simply reap what we have sown. Thus, the curse includes all the sorrows of this life. Even worse, it includes alienation from God Himself, for we are born into a condition of sinfulness which inclines us toward evil and makes us worthy of God's wrath and damnation.

In Christ, the believer is delivered from the eternal consequences of the curse. Through Him, the renewing work of the Spirit begins to remake us into the people of holiness, love, and peace God intends us to be. In the Church we are brought into fellowship with others in whom He is working, and together we are becoming a new people in a new creation. But this is always a work in progress while we live in this world. This is why even Christians who have tried to follow Christ for decades are not perfect, and even the Church is not perfect.

But when we dwell in the completed New Jerusalem of Revelation 22, our own personal war with sin will be over, and we will dwell in a place where all the effects of the curse have been erased forever. Even the very ground will be redeemed and restored to its original goodness (Gen. 1:31). We will dwell in Paradise restored.

We will see God's face (22:4). In His presence all of the questions, fears and doubts that haunt our present life on earth will vanish. We shall know even as we are known. He will be our light and we will have no need of another (22:5). Everything symbolised in Scripture by the word, "light" will be ours completely when we are in His presence.

While the New Jerusalem's final state is in the future, especially for those Christians who were suffering the persecutions of ancient Rome, yet there is a sense in which it is also present with us now. This is because God has already begun His work of redemption. The Saviour has come. People are becoming new creatures in Christ, and are living in the new "Jerusalem" by faith. So the process that will lead to the completion found in Revelation 22 has already started. The conquest of Jerusalem and Rome, are, from the perspective of the Christians of Asia Minor, "things which must shortly be done" (22:6). Therefore, they are to keep the sayings of this prophecy (22:7), which means to preserve them and to order their lives according to the commandments and promises given in the book.

From our perspective, much of what is prophesied in Revelation has already taken place. Jerusalem fell in 70 A.D. and the fall of Rome is a well documented fact. Yet, in one sense, the first 19 chapters of Revelation have a present tense to them, too. For as long as we remain in this world there will always be those who oppose and suppress the truth. The battle with sin ingrained in the social and political structures of cultures will continue until the Lord's Return. And there are always plenty of "antichrists" (1 Jn. 1:22). Each generation faces its own "beast," and must look to the promises and power of God as it fights the good fight. Therefore, we too must keep the hope and faith inspired in us by the book of Revelation.