Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

the former things are passed away, Rev 21:4, lino print, by Tobias Mayer, 2023

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Revelation 21:4

Revelation is a beautifully written book, and although filled with terrifying imagery, dramatic descriptions of upheaval, and dire warnings against our base natures, it is ultimately a book of great hope, written with poetic and artistic elegance, and offering us a multitude of new ways to look at the world we have created—some would say destroyed, but either way we look at it humankind has taken the world God gave us and made it into what it is today.

So yes, the imagery in Revelation is justifiably terrifying. What man has done to God's creation is beyond belief, shocking, diabolical, murderous. John saw it 2,000 years ago, an how much more damage has been done to our planetary home since those early days of Christian hope. Revelation, read through the eyes of self-recognition and ownership, is rightly a book to pull us up short, acknowledge our sins and humbly ask, "and now what?" John answers us by offering here the quiet idea of a new heaven and a new earth.1 All that follows in the final two chapters describes our potential to change from the old to the new, filling the reader with faith, trust and love as we embrace the wonder of the world to come.

It is important to recognise that we are not promised perfection. Perfection would imply imbalance, and God's world will always be a balanced one, grief will be countered with joy, fear with love, despair with hope. All will still exist, but we will be given (or discover) a new approach, an ability to incorporate all emotion into a holistic, fruitful life. We will still cry, but God shall wipe away [our] tears. These words of healing tell us that what follows, there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain is not about the total absence of undesired events and the emotions that accompany them, but rather that our attitude towards those events. Sadness is inevitable, but pain and sorrow are choices we make. In the new heaven and the new earth we can make new choices. These final two chapters of Revelation remind us of the part we have to play in the creation of a better future for ourselves and our descendants. We are not so powerful as to bring the kingdom to bear by ourselves, but neither are we so weak as to have no active part to play in the transition. The coming of the kingdom is a partnership between man and God. It's been a long time coming, but God had this partnership planned from the very beginning of our story.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth...2

Every single day we are offered the opportunity to wake up new, to partner with God and participate in the ongoing creation story, transitioning from the old ways of our Baal-worshipping ancestors towards the true way of God, as promised by Jesus Christ through the pen and tongue of John of Patmos. Every day we are granted that opportunity. Perhaps one of these days, one of us will make the right choice, and then another, and another. Newness will follow.

1 Revelation 21:1. The concept, and the very phrasing was first introduced in the book of Isaiah, For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.Isaiah 66:22-23
2 Genesis 1:27-28