Zoom evening – change of date

I have been organising an ‘open zoom’ where anyone is invited to, normally on the first Tuesday of the month. February there is a change of date.

It will now be on February 21st, 7:30pm UK time.

We have been broadly looking at ‘where are we?’, ‘what is going on?’, ‘what responses should we be thinking of?’. The normal format is that we have someone who holds the evening with an initial interaction with one person… This provokes discussion. There are no definitive answers, but the evenings are not simply interesting but also inspiring and provocative.

A few months back we had Rosie Benjamin with us and she has agreed to come back I think her perspectives will be very helpful as we navigate our way forward.

Here is the link:

Topic: Open Zoom
Time: Feb 21, 2023 19:30 London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 572 803 9267
Passcode: 5GkMTA

Gayle and I are just about to finish 4 weeks (FOUR!!!) in the UK. Driven from Spain, and complete with vehicle breakdown on the M40… Vehicles have always been a sign for us of our ‘journey’, so we are responding to that. At least the garage who sorted us agreed that it was downhill to Spain so take handbrake off and should get there. Leaving probably on Monday with a weekend in Bath and the Reading.

What do you see?

Where do you live?

I have posted on Revelation 21 and Galatians over previous days and in those chapters we have the phrases ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth’ indicating the renewal of creation in totality, and Paul’s stark statement that ‘new creation’ swallows up all other (old) distinctions. All of this is tied of course to Jesus who is the firstborn of all creation; the one who in his resurrection gives us a hope for the future: our resurrection and the renewal of all things (could be translated as the ‘re-genesis’ of all things, the rebirth, re-start of all things – Matt. 19:28).

A future reality? What is the process to get to that future reality? The second question is not easy to say; my conservative nature means we await the parousia in a fairly classic sense: those who have died in Christ return with him (all the language used is the language of the then current empire and all the activity of the Emperor visiting the city is parallel, where he would come with his own into the city for the imperial visitation). Perhaps like those of the OT era who were waiting expectantly a coming Messiah we will get a lot of surprises. However, the easiest way I have found to tie it all together is that we are supplying the material (every cup of cold water given to big wonderful acts of kindness / creation investment) for the age to come.

John saw the whole of creation renewed; Paul says in Galatians:

For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation is everything! (Gal.6:15).

That last phrase is somewhat abrupt, with it being simply: ‘but new creation‘. In contrast to that basic divide between covenant people and non-covenant people, Paul simply says (I imagine him with a megaphone), BUT NEW CREATION!!! That statement changes everything, every human relationship, every value system. Everything is redefined.

It is the same phraseology in 2 Cor. 5:16, 17:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we no longer know him in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being!

Again ever so succinct – if anyone is in Christ, NEW CREATION, with the next part could equally be translated as ‘everything from a former era has passed away’.

I think the megaphone concept works well. The contrast is so great that there is a dramtic before and after. It is the same shock as we get when we read Rev. 21 about the new heavens and the new earth. Same shock and with John we might be able to simply say ‘future… and until then nothing really is different’, but Paul does not let us make that mistake. It is NOW. The only qualification is that we are ‘in Christ’.

It is that location that affects our sight. How we see ‘everyone’. All are called and invited to live in the new creation where we all make a contribution to the future where there is no more sorrow, tears, indeed no more death.

It does not mean we cover our eyes to what is damaging (there is enough of Paul in the various letters where he confronts all damaging behaviour), but the reason for confronting is that the contribution to the fulfilment and appearing of that new creation is hindered every time we fail to live out our lives humanly (this I think gets to the heart of ‘sin’, to fall short of the glory of God). We are not blind to issues but we see through eyes that, in the words of one who has already made a contribution to the future, ‘I have a dream’.

When teaching on the prophetic I like to describe the seeing aspect as being similar to driving a car where one can see the outside physical world, but if there was a piece of paper on the dashboard and the light comes in a certain way one can also see the distracting piece of paper. If driving best not to look at the piece of paper, or to remove it! If prophesying it is best to focus on the piece of paper. Two realities vying for focus. That is the reality Paul writes about. He is well aware of over-realized eschatology that denies living in a fallen creation, but that awareness is placed in the context of ‘new creation’.

Sight. ‘What do you see?’, is a question God asks, e.g., Amos or Jeremiah; one that Jesus asked of Simon the Pharisee.

It is one that we also have to respond to. It is that sight that motivates us in our relationships and causes people to work for the renewal of creation. Ecological problems do not exist in the new creation, and if ‘new creation’ is here…

Story or text?

At the end of the last post I wrote that we need to recover ‘the story beyond the text’. In writing that I am suggesting that there are diverse ways of approaching Scripture. One way would be to view the various texts as somehow dropping out of the sky in a timeless fashion, for surely the Bible is inspired in such a way that each and every text is ‘the word of God’. That would seem to be a way in which we were respecting the authority of the book we consider is our sacred Scriptures. Not my approach.

Story. It seems hard to get away from that. The books of Moses – the ‘law’ – do have some ‘do this / do not do this’ that could be classified as giving us (actually them not us) a set of laws, but the majority of the first five books (the law) are in the form of narratives recounting what took place – story. So much historical reflection in the other books… not a ‘Thus saith the Lord’ without a historical context. The Gospels – narrative. Yes there is teaching and instruction within them but all four essentially present us with ‘Jesus did this, he said this in this setting’ and so on right through to an account of the last days of his life; far more narrative than a set of teachings. Acts – story. The letters – most are in response to ‘in this setting and time with what they are facing I will write this to them’… historical context (so for example even the BIG doctrinal letter of Romans instructing us to pay our taxes is not a simple instruction, but is written into the context of Rome and street protests that were about to erupt over, within months, the taxation situation). Revelation – a context of observing Rome’s policies and values with a wonderful intersection then of earthly observation and apocalyptic vision that interprets and explains what was visible to one and all.

Story is what makes up the majority of our book.

And cos there is story we don’t have to defend all of it as ‘this is literal’. Maybe Jonah was a historical character, probably not though… and probably not even if Jesus thought he was (though I don’t think Jesus thought he was). Certainly I see no reason to suggest an ‘Adam and Eve’ in the sense of six / seven day creation and happened in this way (literally). What I think we need to think about is not the literalistic nature or not but more what would be the story being told. The story of creation would certainly adjust many eschatologies… the ‘first word’ and the ‘last word’ should surely be better aligned than ‘everything will burn up’. Probably the seven days resonate with the seven days of preparation for the Temple before it was filled with the glory of God. Somehow that would align those ancient stories more with the stories of the day from other cultures (and totally transcend them all) and give us (as Christians) a major connection between Genesis 1 and 2 with our comments on Revelation 21, with the whole of creation as a Temple. I think the only burning up in the end will be the various iterations of the ‘left Behind’ type of literature!

Story is so challenging. What if – hold on to your seat belt – Paul planted ekklesiai in each place as he knew that was essential, essential as the first phase of his activity, but that once he had done that maybe there would be a second phase, one that we do not read of in Scripture? We might try and copy phase 1 with our claims of being a biblical church because we read what was done, but fail to understand the why of what he was doing?

Story… and an uncompleted story. I am not suggesting we can continue to write the Bible… but we can and must continue to tell the same story, but it would seem to me that we are not in the same ‘chapter’ of where the Bible brings the story up to. If we do something different that tells a story that is incompatible with what has gone before we will prove to be truly unbiblical; likewise if we simply line up texts and align to them without consideration to the story it will also result in us being unbiblical.

So much could be said about the levels of story that are in our Scriptures – the detailed explanations as to why David (and Solomon) were God’s choices in the earlier historical books of Samuel but once we come to Chronicles no need to ascertain that (abnormal) choice of David and Solomon was from God as those nasty northern kingdoms have gone and only the faithful to David remain, would be one example.

And conflicts within Scripture – now we come to another area of great richness. Take the ‘wisdom books’. Proverbs is clear, there are no exceptions. Job… in some ways an exception… then Ecclesiastes, with the only human who has value is a dead one! Three contributions that we wrestle with so that we come to a level of wisdom that one monolithic approach would not help us get there. Life is complex and the intra-canonical dialogue (probably disagreement) serves us well.

Story, and with the interpretive centre being in the story of Jesus for God has spoken in ‘the Son in these last days’ in a defining way. The Jesus story – now that transforms the whole story.

Babylon… a strange land?

Babylon becomes the place of Exile for the people of God and as with so many biblical themes / passages there are different approaches we can take as Scripture seems to swing one way and another on it… either indicating that a multiplicity of interpretation is the best way to go, or (my preference) there is continual intra-canonical debate (disagreement?) which we are invited into, with the question being ‘so Martin how do you respond?’. Ultimately I have to give my answer… an assessment of my life (then) will not be on what had discerned about the various texts but how my life had been lived out.

I prefer the latter (entering the dialogue / disagreement) as Scripture in all its inspiration is first of all described as ‘useful’ (2 Tim. 3:16) and when we read further about the usefulness it is not so that we come to some level of correct beliefs at a head level but ‘correct’ responses and actions so that we can be involved in ‘every good work’. Behaviour over belief.

Babylon and the Exile. The place where they felt they could not ‘sing the songs of the Lord in a strange land’ so they ‘hung up their harps on the willow trees’. Away from the ‘promised’ land. Jeremiah is an interesting character. Not one who followed the pattern that was common, but suffered at the hands of his compatriots because he could not bring them a positive word about God’s deliverance, and refused to say that the Jerusalem temple would be the guarantee that all would go well (a clear forerunner of Jesus, who takes a similar line some 600+ years later).

Babylon the place where the synagogue develops. Ever so practical for how can a people remain distinct in such a place? Meet weekly, focus more on the scrolls than the story. Safety first. Safety – we so desire that, but it can prove to be something false that hinders us… after all the people of God are like the wind – a level of unpredictability to them.

The level of dislocation that Jeremiah’s compatriots experienced means we cannot be very critical of how they journeyed in the land of Exile, but we have a great advantage over them. After all they understood that their destiny was tied up with a specific land – ours is not. They understood that there was something distinct about their Jewishness, we understand that God is pulling a people from every tribe and nation together. Any criticism must be a critique of us in the light of their situation, and as with so much of Scripture if we allow the critique to come our way we can develop along a good path.

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to your dreams that you dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord (Jer. 29:5-9).

Seek the shalom of the city (translated welfare but the word is shalom… that rich Hebrew word that does not mean the absence of unrest / war, but the positive presence of well-being because everything is ordered in a godly way, where everyone can find a path to their destiny); pray on behalf of Babylon; fulfil there the creational command to ‘multiply’.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    “May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls
    and security within your towers.” (Ps. 122:6,7).

Pray, peace (shalom) and security (verb is ‘to prosper‘)… for Jerusalem. Same sentiments as for the place of Exile. Jerusalem held a special place in their hearts, and this Psalm is one of the pilgrims travelling to the city… But Babylon likewise has to hold a special place!

We might be able to suggest that the place of exile is temporary with the hope of returning to Jerusalem. Temporary for them, but for us? Jerusalem to the ends of the earth… Matthew (the Jewish gospel of fulfilment) indicates with his genealogy of Jesus (somewhat ‘manipulated’ to fit a nice pattern of 14’s, and even after the rather creative choice of who he lists it is still a little challenging to get it to be strict pattern of 14’s – ah well, Scripture is to be ‘useful’ for life!) that the exile is coming to an end with the amazing phrase that ‘Jesus will save his people from their sins’ for he will be ‘Emmanuel’ (God with us – at last after the Exile is finally over). Exile was because of their sins, but in Jesus it was ending. So maybe here they are back in the land of promise, and the temporary exile is over? But the end of Mathew’s Gospel is wonderfully provocative with the well-known ‘Great Commission’ sending the disciples to all nations (Gentiles) being a contrasting parallel to Cyrus commission to restore Jerusalem and the temple. Maybe the exile was temporary for the Jews of Jeremiah’s day; it seems permanent for us, but not simply permanent, it is transformed. There is no place that we are exiled from in the sense of one day we will return to a land… we are permanently placed in Babylon with the knowledge that we carry a passport from another place – ‘our citizenship is in heaven’. This ‘citizenship’ is not even close to meaning that ‘heaven is our true home’ but in the fulfilling sense that wherever we are we are to ‘seek the prosperity of the city’ so that ‘shalom‘ (an environment where people can enter successfully on their path to their destiny).

Seems that is in line with what I have posted on Revelation 21.

Babylon, our Babylon is indeed a strange land. But our goal is not to escape, to ‘go’ somewhere else… but to see some measure of ‘heaven on earth’ in that place. No Temple there… and even any synagogue pattern has to be a stepping stone to recovering the story beyond the text.

Revelation 21:22-27

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The New Jerusalem… no Temple. Such a contrast to the Jerusalem that John had known. That city was renowned throughout the Roman Empire, and noted for its Temple, occupying around 20% of the entire city. Jerusalem was not a city with a Cathedral (Canterbury, for example)… it was a Temple with streets and houses outside of it, hence at Passover time it could host all the pilgrims, many of whom sleep overnight outside the city on the Mount of Olives (hence the need for Judas to show the soldiers where Jesus was located). The contrast could not be greater. A Jerusalem without a temple could not be computed, and of course 70AD prefigures the New Jerusalem with the destruction of the Temple. How many mourned for the passing of the Temple, here however John helps us understand why the Temple had to go. There can be no Temple where there is the presence of ‘the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb’. Any ‘temple’ is temporary. Tie this to the opening verse of the chapter and we have a vision (understatement!):

I saw a new heaven and a new earth – but no sea… I saw a New Jerusalem – but no Temple.

Today is shaped by what we see for tomorrow; we might work with stepping stones toward tomorrow, but stepping stones are not marking the finish of the journey simply the pathway. Again the vision is of the total transformation of all things, to work with the one who makes all things new.

And wonderful confusion is thrown our way. This city / Temple that fills everything, that is the bride provides light for the nations to walk in a healthy / holy direction (‘disciple all nations’), with its gates never closed (so what is outside the city?) and allowing the glory from the nations to come in, but not allowing anything unclean to enter… Is the bride the city? For sure… Can others enter? Seems that way.

I appreciate what we have here is visionary, apocalyptic imagery; but such imagery is present to communicate what we might term ‘reality’.

The identity of the Bride is for sure those who are ‘in Christ’; there seems to be those who do not get to participate in this future (‘second death’) and there seems to be room for some kind of extremely blurred edges with gates that are closed only to that which is unclean.

I am glad for the confusion! Does me good.

I am challenged by the scale of the vision. A transformed world. If John on Patmos, in captivity could communicate that kind of vision, maybe I in my small world can hold in some way to it too, along with all the ‘what will that look like?’ questions. The future, even when a little blurred to sight, is more than enough to shape me… and the rest of humanity.

Thank you John. Thank you MLK… The dream is alive.

Revelation 21:9-21

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names that are the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites: on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The angel who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls.. The city has four equal sides, its length the same as its width, and he measured the city with his rod, twelve thousand stadia; its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, one hundred forty-four cubits by human measurement, which the angel was using. The wall is built of jasper, while the city is pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass.

We come to the identity of the bride that has been prepared. ‘In the spirit’ is the fourth time we read this phrase in the book of Revelation. First time is in the opening chapter that sets the whole book in motion: a vision of the resurrected, glorified Jesus… second time is a big overview vision of the throne room of God, a vision that stands in total contrast to the throne of Caesar with his 24 advisors around his throne; third time is a vision of Babylon and her judgement… and here is the final ‘in the Spirit’ marker. Jesus – throne – the battle and opposition – and the eschaton.

Twelve gates, twelve angels, twelve apostles, twelve tribes, twelve foundations. Twelve… always symbolising government, understood not as ruling over in a dominion sense but being the means through which the ‘kingdom’ of God comes. ‘Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ is now fully fulfilled.

Two remarkable aspects are noted about the ‘size’ of the city. It is cubic – length, breadth and height are the same. That points us back to the only other shape in Scripture that is cubic – the very holy of holies; and the size is the size of the then known world – more or less the size of the oikoumene, the Imperial kingdom that was offered to Jesus by the ‘devil’. The Temple in Jerusalem was a compromise… courts for women, for Gentiles, and ultimately a ‘holy of holies’ marked out as sacred. All exposed (exploded) by the death of Jesus, with a curtain ripped in two. And here the ultimate – no more courts, only a holy of holies, the presence of God in fullness throughout all of creation. Truly a parousia (an appearing) of God, a making visible of the reality that is hidden. Little wonder we will read ‘I saw no Temple’ in the city!

The measurement used was of gold – symbolic of wealth that comes from creation – and the measurement was both a human and an angelic one (I think a better translation would be ‘by human measurement, which is also an angel measurement). Angels and humans at last in harmony; both servants of God working together. We tend either to ignore the angelic, or we colonise their activity. Imagine if both are free to work their side of the partnership!

The one story of Scripture comes together. The foundations from the apostolic work; the gates from the call of the twelve tribes. Gates that protect, that allow for prosperity and release; foundations that are for the total transformation of the world. Again we come to see that the work of the kingdom is not to be reduced to ‘hands up for salvation’ and then we ‘plant a church’ but to work for the total transformation of the world, with a focus on the foundations.

Revelation 21:6-8

Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

What a great way to start verse 6: ‘It is done’. A completion… what began with ‘in the beginning’ has a ‘in the end’ conclusion. The idea that God began meticulously dealing with the chaos, through a process of shapes and filling them, to commission humanity to continue the work, and then at the end it all burns up is both crazy and so against the story of Scripture. The seven day creation account is parallel to the 7 days of preparation for the final coming of God into the OT Temple… here in this chapter we read of the coming of God into his/her Temple – what began as a possibility in Genesis is a definite in Revelation; a God coming to a couple in the evening into a piece of creation now comes to (redeemed) humanity permanently in the whole of creation. ‘It is done’, followed by the two ways of tying the start to the finish – alpha and omega, beginning and end. Such a way of presenting it underlines that we are dealing with one story from Genesis to Revelation, and once we deviate from the story, simply taking verses out of their place in the story we will end up with some major deviations. Hence, we have to develop some form of narratival understanding of Scripture rather than textual adherence.

The goal for humanity is termed the eschaton, from which we get our word eschatology; there is another word for ‘end’ – telos; this is not used for our destiny, only God is (in verse 6) the telos. A little speculation but maybe the eschaton is not the telos, is not the final, final, final state. The creative God might just continue to create? Speculative, for sure.

The translation I am using says that those who overcome (a consistent theme in the book) will be ‘my children’; the text actually has ‘my son’. I think here is surely an echo to Jesus as ‘my beloved Son’, and before that to Israel as ‘my son’. ‘In Christ’ is so important in the NT; I consider it gets us round (actually I consider it straightens us up!) common concepts of ‘election’. Jesus is the elect one… if we are in Christ we are elect in him and hence from the foundation of the world. This is not arbitrary election of some (and damnation of others). Jesus is the elect one and the location for our election. If I am in him I am elect.

There is a second death in Revelation, prepared for the devil and his angels, and here we do not have a Universalist hope – a sidenote there are enough ambiguities in Scripture that prevent us being the one who sits on the throne and draws a line of ‘in / out’. Assuming this is speaking of a future for some it seems to me that the future is not one of eternal punishing (something ongoing) but of eternal punishment (a judgement passed after which there is no more life). I hold that conditional immortality – only God has immortality (‘It is he alone who has immortality’ 1 Tim. 6:16) and that immortality is given to those that he gives it to, as the immortality of the soul is not found in Scripture; post-Eden there is a barrier to the tree of life ‘so that they may not live forever’, etc… – is what fits best here. The fire and sulphur is a reference to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. All that went in the fire was destroyed, the end was final, this was a second death after which there is no more life.

That then is my take on it… As for God’s take on it?

Revelation 21:2-5

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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 and be their God;
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.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

After the sight of the new creation John records that he saw the New Jerusalem, again he uses kainos to describe it, though when he describes it this is not an earthly Jerusalem that is renewed. It comes down from the throne of God and occupies space beyond any earthly city (and as later we will note unlike the earthly Jerusalem there is no temple within it). This New Jerusalem is the bride ready for her husband – Jesus. Later we will look at the identity of that bride.

Then comes the outworking of all persistent movement in Scripture… to put it in our language, God changes post-code. The dwelling place (tabernacling verb) is with humanity. The language used is of movement from heaven to earth, whereas so much of evangelical faith has been of a movement in the other direction and the hope being expressed of the so-called ‘rapture’. So opposite of Scripture and would be so unknown among the Jewish faith expressed throughout the Old Testament and during the time of Jesus.

There is a little quaint aspect with ‘God being their God and they will be God’s peoples’; peoples (plural:  λαοὶ) might simply be a way of saying ‘people’ (as translated in many English versions) but maybe there is a little insight here into what is somewhat mysterious – are there different people groups that God identifies with? Does the in / out division ultimately fail us?

The list of what is no more also gives sight to what is here now but then those aspects will have gone. The first things, the things we are acquainted with will be something of the past… when God makes all things new… and even the tense used indicates how God acts; he is making all things new. This is God by nature, the God we partner with. And it is not making new things as if there was no value on the experiences of a former era, but God is continually renewing all things, and in the vision there will be such a transformation that what taints experiences will be no more.

A future vision… but a present focus.

A run through Revelation 21

Been thinking a bit about Revelation 21 (actually also been thinking would love a tattoo with:

Καὶ εἶδον οὐρανὸν καινὸν καὶ γῆν καινήν (I saw a new heaven and a new earth) combined with:
‘I have a dream’).

Anyway, tattoos or not, the words have been spoken out by John and MLK has echoed them, and they are eternal words with power. Of course we can suggest Revelation is future but only in the sense that in critiquing political / Babylonish power structures we are still longing for the full outworking of what John saw. The book is prophetic not predictive.

I am of the camp that we await a very specific appearing of the age to come through the Person of Jesus, and in that sense I am very conservative, but I am also very cautious in that ‘who knows’ and are we going to be more right in our expectation than the Jews of the first Century were? And whether conservative or cautious the one thing that seems clear (I hope it is clear!!) is that we are to pray for the kingdom to come, the will of God be done on earth as in heaven. So maybe this is to be the future , it certainly has to be the way we pray – hence I have no time for ‘AntiChrist will come with a one world government’. I have no time for it primarily because to make that idea work one has to combine all kinds of scriptures one with the other, and it is certainly not clear that they are all speaking of the same thing.

If the above is unclear let me try one more time… I expect the fullness of the ‘new creation’ to only be manifest when we have what we term ‘the return of Christ’… but given that we are to pray ‘let your kingdom come’ maybe we have misunderstood the return of Jesus, and that the return of Jesus is the restoration of all things. Either way we pray, long for and work for a transformation of this world… not through domination but through going wherever the Lamb travels.

[And a little ‘footnote’ I don’t think this has anything to do with replacing those in power with some good little Christians so that they take over and make all things nice (meaning crush nasty people and dictate that only things God likes will prevail and be implemented! As well as being as un-kenotic as it comes such an approach also assumes too much that the shape is OK and all we need what fills it to be different. There are three steps in creation – CHAOS, shape and fullness. We have shapes – shaped from Babylon, and we pretty much have fullness of those shapes. A future must first go back to CHAOS, so that we can find some shapes that are worthy to be filled, that can be viewed by the God who hopefully will then say ‘that is good’.]

The first verse of Rev. 21:

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. 

‘Heaven and earth’ here and in Gen. 1 is a merism for ‘all creation’. It takes the two end points with an inclusion of everything in between: ‘I searched high and low’ does not mean I did not search anything in between! So John saw a new (kainos) creation. Jesus is the firstborn through the resurrection of creation; creation has a hope because of Jesus; indeed part of material creation has gone ahead, for his body (material physicality) is not to be found in the grave. The resurrection is the hope for us all… and the hope for all of creation. This was a central theme in Paul (and something he insisted was a present and not simply a future reality)… the only thing that counted was ‘new creation’, and this changed everything. To hold on to old ways of being holy simply meant that the person was now a transgressor(!) and that our sight of everyone (not simply those who were ‘in Christ’) was transformed; and that all old categories were abolished.

John uses the kainos word for new, not neos. Kainos newness is not ‘I destroyed the old thing… look here is something totally new’, but rather carries the sense of ‘re-newed’, or we might use the term ‘transformed’. The transformation of the whole of creation – a vision beyond one that we carry, for sure, but one that includes everything we hope for.

And in this newness he did not see any sea, for it was ‘no more’. In the original creation we have three elements: heavens, earth and the middle element of ‘waters’. Waters above and waters below. Everything from heaven could only come to earth through the element of the waters. The waters / sea were symbolic of resistance, of everything that was not controllable. The disciples were amazed at one who could control the waves (‘what kind of human is this?’); Jesus walked on the water… The beast that arises out of the earth follows the beast that arises out of the sea in Revelation; the sea was the means by which trade took place in Babylon / Rome; the trade being unjust and also involved trading in ‘human souls’.

For us now there is a sea… there is a resistance… we pray for heaven to come but we have to deal with the unruly for it come… Maybe even we can read in this verse the need for and a vision of the transformation of all trade. It is for this reason we need to take note of ‘they will not be allowed to trade (buy and sell)’ with caution about all we are involved in economically but also to realise that there is another interchange in Scripture, that of giving and receiving. It is more blessed to give than to receive, so the shift has to be into ‘what I have I give to you’, rather than how can I earn money (and using such an approach we have to radically redefine how Scripture uses the term ‘work’)… and in that we discover that God gives an increase to the giver, hence of the increase of his government there will be no end. The giver receives and there are no losers!!

A new creation – where ultimately all who have passed away and are in Christ will be resurrected (hope was always in Scripture for the receiving of the blessings of God here… not there) is what we pray for. We live in the light of it, so our actions are to be a witness to the hope that is in us; it is not here yet… maybe we await for the parousia, maybe the parousia awaits this to happen… either way we need our vision corrected on a daily basis (what do we see?) and we pray ‘let your kingdom… the fullness of creation come… on earth as in heaven’.

So what?

I posted a video of some sight for 2023 with the major focus being on currency changes, but preceded that by a few ‘so what?’ comments. This was provoked by clicking on a link about a major scandal that is still unfolding within the EU parliament. It resonated with something I had said about what was to come in 2022 (I had said it would relate to a company scandal and affect multiple nations with resignations… to date there is no mention of a ‘company’ involved – but there is more to come on this, and of course it affects 27 nations within the EU.)

I came through to speak with Gayle and to reflect with her on this. I also reflected on a number of other situations, both from 2022 and from other situations, some of which are really hard to reconcile, but most leave one with a ‘so what?’ kind of response. Assuming that there is genuine revelation involved, there remains the ‘and what good does the revelation do?’.

If we are interested in ‘knowing something someone else does not know’ then we have the answer to the ‘so what’ question, however, information for the sake of information is not what God trades in. Transformation is the work of heaven, not the dispensing of information. That is the huge difference between occult foretelling and any element of foretelling within prophecy. One releases a measure of bondage and ‘fate’ the other the wonderful flexible destiny of a God who works in all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to that divine purpose.

So we have to rule out ‘giving of inside knowledge’ as part of the ‘so what’ answer. Sadly I think this is often part of the deal when people give their ‘what I see for the coming year’ proclamations. Long term (maybe short term) this can only release problems. Other problems arise when (often because of political or theological reasons) we connect the dots too quickly, or as unbiased as we think we are that our bias gives us the interpretation.

Any foretelling will be a focus for prayer, though one of the challenges here is that when something is foretold the expectation is often different to that of the outworking. (I have a colleague who prophesied in Madrid prior to the election in 2004 that there would be ‘an explosion in the city that will turn the expected outcome of the election’. Within a few days the Madrid train bombing took place and the election result was the opposite of what was anticipated. She told me ‘never once did I think that this would be a literal explosion’. So of course one can say, information fuels prayer… but when we are on the wrong track already it might not make a lot of difference.

Signs. Now we get closer I think. Signs in Scripture are semi-sacramental, and of course the ‘sign’ of the elements (for Protestants) is indeed fully ‘sacramental’ for others. Signs point. They are sign posts to help us set direction, set direction for our sight. ‘When you see these things happen…’ lift your eyes. We look higher than the sign, we look beyond the sign. So if I am correct to place ‘currency’ as a main focus this coming year what would be beyond that – ‘economy’ not in the sense of the GDP of a nation, nor simply at how do I look after my money. The sign might necessitate what we consider doing with money, but it is pointing beyond money.

Signs. Even when we do not understand what is beyond the sign to look for, signs also pull what they point at to the physicality. They draw the spiritual reality / value into the physical. Hence with the ‘currency’ issue we will see that somehow economy / economies will feel the affect greatly of what is taking place. And when we consider that money / perceived wealth is at the centre of what is shaken when there is a significant spiritual shift (consider Ephesus in Acts 19 where it seems all the signs come together, and if Ephesus is a first city, then we expect to see there the clarity that is often hidden elsewhere) we should be anticipating something accelerating.

[Acceleration seems to be where we are at… when Liz Truss was established as PM of England I know that a number saw her as a ‘re-incarnation’ of Margaret Thatcher. Some of my connections of course saw this as a restoration of something good… I, however, said if she goes quickly it will be a sign that elements of the past are being emptied out quickly. I might have my bias but I think I was motivated by we are not looking to re-establish the past – not the past with Churchill nor with Mrs. T. This has been, for me, what COVID has highlighted. We are not to return to a ‘back to normal’. That which we thought was normal was largely un-normal, and un-natural. We are not looking to go back but moving on into land we have not been in.]

Whatever we see in the sense of ‘God is removing’, ‘this will be shaken’ has to be expecting that there will be something that comes through the shaking, or comes up from the buried place into visibility that cannot be shaken (Heb. 13 helpfully give us elements that have to come through).

We are to expect space to be occupied that is cleared, often, though, with chaos being the first state. God creates out of chaos. Other creation stories might have ‘god’ defeating the chaos monster, and our story is both far removed from that version and also not so far away from it. God creates out of chaos. So we might not expect something to instantly replace what has been shaken out of its place. A too-quick replacement might see something substituted but carrying the same spirit – that is my concern with so much of the ‘Chrstendom under a new label’ approach. We replace what has been dominating with a Christian presence that… dominates!

Maybe we have to live with chaos first, then comes boundaries, then comes ‘this is good’ to fill it.

A ‘so what’ for 2023? Sow our two coins (and coins can be representative of time – a better economy) where we want the world to go.

We are rapidly coming to the time when the body of Christ will be central to the purposes of God by not centring itself on itself. The survival of the ‘church’ is not the goal, but the presence of God in and through all things. ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth’ (a whole new creation) but within the ‘new Jerusalem’ John says that he ‘saw no temple in the city’.

What will take place in these (now) next 17/18 years? When we look back we might realise that we had no clue about the ‘so what’, but I suspect if we can free ourselves from desiring knowledge that we will be amazed at what is new.

A footnote: ecological renewal… now that involves a new economy.