So this series has to end somewhere. No better place than the New Jerusalem. At some point redemption stops and eternity begins. Creation. Fall. Redemption. Now at last, Fulfillment! I could have kept adding episode after episode to the RE- series till WordPress would no longer let me write posts! But after ten I think it’s time we stick a fork in it! Not that we’re done experiencing redemption and renewal. But the best place for us to bring closure to a study like this is that day when eternity crashes into time and brings history to a full stop.
Two things (more than anything else) have helped me make sense of the last two chapters of my bible. One is the observation that if you read Revelation from a bible with cross-references in the margins, you’ll discover there’s hardly a phrase in the book of Revelation that doesn’t come from Old Testament prophetic books – especially Isaiah and Ezekiel. The second thing I’ve enjoyed in recent years of reading Revelation 21 and 22 is reading Isaiah 60 in connection with these two chapters. Richard Mouw’s book When the Kings Come Marching In was such a helpful find (assigned reading for Cultural Exegesis in seminary).
If you can’t track down Mouw’s book before you dive into Rev 21/22, at least do yourself the favor of reading Isaiah 60 with one eye… and Revelation 21/22 with the other. In fact, not to put too fine of a point on it, you’ll ALSO want to take a look at Genesis 1:26-31 (where you’ll find God’s first instructions to the parents of our human family). OK! That’s it. I know it sounds like a lot of trouble, but trust me, you’ll see some interesting connections. Once you’ve done that, you know the rest of the routine. You can access some background info at the PDF link that appears in Question 7 below.
When you think about who will be in heaven and what will be in heaven, what do your thoughts drift to first? Would you be bummed out if heaven turned out to be very different from how you imagine it? Why or why not?
Everything New – Rev 21:1-7
1- Verse 4 states “the old order of things has passed away.” List everything that seems to be part of this old order.
2- What is new? How does the old relate to what is new?
3- What does it mean that God’s dwelling place is now with his people? To John’s readers what might come to mind when they think about times past when “God dwelled among his people.”
4- What do you think life in God’s presence will be like? When you imagine it, what aspects of the old order will you especially be glad to part with?
Glory of the Nations – Rev 21:22-27
5- What is old and what is new in these verses?
6- John associates light and glory. How would you define the glory of God (recall Exodus and the tabernacle)?
7- John implies that the kings of the earth will bring the glory and honor of the nations into the Holy City (Viv 24, 26). What do you think he means by the glory and honor of the nations?
8- Skim through Isaiah chapter 60. Notice the many allusions John’s apocalypse makes to Isaiah’s prophecy. How do verses 6-7 and 11-13 in particular help us understand what John is showing us in Rev 21:24-26?
9-Richard Mouw identifies the glory of the nations as the cultural works of humanity (be they art, agriculture, technology, education, medicine, law or government). Humanity’s “filling up” of the earth in response to the cultural mandate (Gen 1:28) produces works of glory that one day find their place in the Holy City. What is your response to a vision of heaven that includes redeemed works of human culture?
Servants Reigning Forever. Rev 22:1-5
10- Again let’s ask, What is new and what is old in these verses?
11- The tree of life will bring healing to the nations. What might that look like? How might that happen?
12- How do we explain the tension between servants serving and servants reigning? Usually those who reign are served by those who serve.
13- How has John’s vision challenged your imagination of heaven? How does it give shape to your hopes (and perhaps your fears)?