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’.