3 I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
When I was a youth growing up in a rural area on the edge of a small town in Maine, one of the best memories I have is how much I enjoyed reading science fiction. What I remember even more is being able to take a sleeping bag outside in the summer and gazing up at the stars and being so enthralled as the stars were so clear and bright. The wonder of God’s creation was so awesome that it made it very easy to imagine some of the stories found in science fiction at that time.
My favorite author then was Isaac Asimov. I later learned that he was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University and wrote over 500 books. He died in 1992, but his writing, such as the robot series written in the 40s and 50s, still has appeal. An example is the movie, “I Robot” with Will Smith, which was produced in 2004.
The book of Revelation contains an account of visions in symbolic and allegorical language borrowed extensively from the Old Testament, especially Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Daniel. Whether or not these visions were real experiences of the author or simply literary conventions employed by him is an open question.
Revelation can be somewhat understood by looking at the historical background at the time of its writing. Like the book of Daniel, it was composed as resistance literature to meet a crisis. The book suggests that the crisis was ruthless persecution of the early church by the Roman authorities. The harlot Babylon symbolizes pagan Rome, the city on seven hills, Revelation 17:9.
The book is, then, an exhortation to Christians of the first century to stand firm in the faith and to avoid compromise with paganism, despite the threat of adversity and martyrdom; they are to wait patiently for the fulfillment of God’s mighty promises. The triumph of God in the world of humanity remains a mystery, to be accepted in faith and longed for in hope. It is a triumph that unfolds in the history of Jesus and continues to unfold in the history of individual Christians who follows in the way of the cross.
The author of the book calls himself John who, because of his Christian faith, has been exiled to the rocky island of Patmos, a Roman penal colony. The tone of the letters to the seven churches in Rev 1:4 – 3:22 suggests that the author had great authority over the Christian communities in Asia. It is possible, therefore, that he was a disciple of John the apostle, who is traditionally associated with that part of the world. The date of the book in its present form is probably near the end of the reign of Domitian (A.D. 81–96), a fierce persecutor of the Christians.
Our scripture comes from the last book, and next to the last chapter in the bible. God brings his city to the earth and the church, the community of faith, the people of God will live there. The city, representing human community, life together, is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s divine purpose and demonstration of God’s faithfulness. There are also pictures of transformation and ultimate inclusion. God and Jesus are the light by which the people walk.
by Clarence Beverage
For Pondering & Prayer
We see these words, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Are you able to wrap your mind around such a reality? Does it seem as fantastic as a science fiction story? The more I think about it I feel hopeful, a positive future to think about and push aside concerns that I have no power over.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, your Word tells us we can know that we have eternal life as one who believes in you. We thank you for the image of a time when tears will be gone and all will be new. Amen.