Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Colonnade and shops in Bath, England

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Dec 30, Rev 19-22

This is our last reading in this plan. I hope you've enjoyed reading together as much as I have. We’ll start a new plan on Jan 1. I’ll be sharing the details at our New Year’s Day service at 10:00 AM. You can find some of the details by clicking hereToday's readings are Rev 19-22.

With the battle over and the victory won, worship commences in heaven -- intense, loud, joyful, unbridled worship. The Lamb is now on a white horse and is portrayed as an all-powerful, conquering king. The bride is presented to the Lamb. She has "made herself ready" but her beauty has been "granted" to her (Rev 19:8) in the form of righteousness.

In Rev 20, we see the beginning of the thousand year reign. The chronology is a little confusing in these chapters. Suffice it to say that there is a wedding and there is a reign. At the end of the reign, which lasts a very long time, perhaps a literal thousand years, perhaps not, there is another final battle between the Lamb and Satan. This battle leads to the defeat of Satan and judgment on all who opposed God.

A new heaven and a new earth appear. This is the new creation. Bear in mind that much of the language used is symbolic and metaphorical, meant to convey the perfection and holiness of heaven and the presence of the unbridled glory of God. Many pages have been written trying to formalize what John describes in these chapters. Most of it is indescribable. God is not giving John blueprints here. He is revealing His glory.

Once again, God reigns in sovereign authority over all. In the beginning, man fell and was separated from God. Now man is restored to God. The journey back to the garden has been completed by the grace of God and all things have been made new again. We see a new Jerusalem, this one with no temple, no sun or moon. It is lit by the glory of God with the Son as the lamp. It is a safe, pure and holy place, eternally preserved in its holiness (Rev 20:25-27).

The new city is marked by multiples of twelve. It is 12,000 stadia (presumably, squared). The walls are 144 cubits. There are twelve gates built on twelve foundations, each of the foundations representing one of twelve Apostles, each gate named after one of the twelve tribes. The foundations are a clear allusion to the new church which has been built on a “foundation of the Apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20). The text does not distinguish which of the twelve Apostles are honored in this fashion. Note that the text does not limit the number of Apostles to twelve. It only says that the foundations of the gates numbered twelve and each bore the name of an Apostle. No mention is made as to who may be included in the twelve.

Laboring over that detail can be an interesting exercise but would miss the point being made here. Heaven is all about inclusion of all believers to the glory of God. The Bible, which is rapidly coming to a conclusion, is the story of God and His plan to reveal His glory in the redemption of His children. It's not about who's who in heaven. 

We see in the gates and the designation of the tribes and the Apostles, a union between the Old Testament and the New. This is symbolic on a number of levels. It honors the original, faithful Jews who are now united with the new church, all of them occupying the new Jerusalem. It recognizes that they have all been part of God's plan to bring His chosen ones into His presence. It shows that God has been actively working throughout the history of the world. The multiple twelves we see in the walls, gates and dimensions of the city indicate perfection. Trying to determine actual measurements or literalize any of these details would again miss the point John is making. He is portraying a city that is intricately perfect in every way, existing for the glory of God.

Rev 22 depicts the river of life, running through the city. On its banks, we see the tree of life, hidden since Adam and Eve's ejection from the Garden. The curse has been reversed, man is restored to an intimate, eternally secured relationship with God and His blessings are abundant and never-ending.

John ends his book with the encouragement and assurance that Jesus will return soon. Meanwhile, we see a reminder that the Bible is the complete and perfect self-revelation of God and is not to be tampered with, edited or improved upon. Rev 22:20 makes it clear that the Scriptures are the words of Christ. It is fitting that the last verse is a testimony to the grace of God. 

It is compelling that the first verse of Genesis tells us, “In the beginning God…” This occurs at the very first moment of human history. Thousands of years later, as those who believe in Him take their first steps into eternity, the Bible ends with “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” The first and last words of the Bible are about our holy, sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, loving, triune God. We would do well to remember that all that lies in between are about Him as well. 

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