Archive for June, 2016

The Night Has a Thousand, Kinda Creepy, Eyes

The Night Has a Thousand, Kinda Creepy, Eyes

(HT: Father Frederick Schmidt)

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(This is the final post of our June series on the mystifying book of Revelation.)

Revelation is rich in so much theology: theologies of wrath and judgment and justice and repentance and hope and hospitality and reconciliation and restoration and inclusiveness and healing and communion.

There’s that wonderful vision of communion with Jesus in Revelation 21, which speaks of the the mystical marriage between the “bride” and the Lamb.

Recall that Jesus had identified himself with the figure of the bridegroom in Matthew, Mark and Luke too, the so-called Synoptic Gospels.

John’s gospel is always a tad different.

Understand that it was a Jewish custom for the bridegroom’s friend to wait with and watch over the bride until the groom came. So John in his gospel speaks directly of the bride when he tells us:

    He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase but I must decrease (John 3:29-30)”.

A wedding is a joyous affair, of course, in which intimate love and deep friendships are celebrated. John of Patmos reminds us in Revelation that Jesus loves the faithful with all the deep intimacy with which a bride and groom love each other.

This is how Jesus embraces us, as if he were in communion with us at a great wedding and feast. In the festive atmosphere of communion and hospitality that is a wedding, we shower the newlyweds with gifts for their new life together.

We celebrate with laughter and dancing and making joyful noise with family and the best of our friends to the point of tears.

Yet when the ultimate wedding communion comes and the groom appears in the completeness of glory, even tears, whether of suffering or joy, will be wiped away.

Forget the bogus “Rapture: It’s about the coming “Ecstasy.”

Until that time comes we wait and watch over one another and become less so that Jesus can become more to others.

Today’s final takeaway:

The promise of ecstatic communion with God and others makes Revelation an extension of the Good News of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior who showers us with the water of life as a gift.

The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”

“And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.”

— Revelation 22: 17

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(This is Day 29 in our 30-day examination of the Bible’s Book of Revelation.)

Remember: John’s psychedelic vision is not an announcement that God plans to ruin the ecology or destroy the world; John’s vision is meant to supply his readers with fresh heart.

“God will do anything, enlist anything, to come to the aid of his people. ‘Therefore,’ says John to his readers, ‘however beaten-up you might be, don’t be beaten-down. God has not abandoned you to your suffering.'”

— Canadian preacher and Wesleyan theologian Victor Shepherd

Years ago I was “surfing the Net,” as they say, and came across a wonderful online theological source that features the writings, sermons and speeches of Canadian Victor Shepherd.

Canadian preacher, (very readable!) author and Wesleyan scholar Victor Shepherd knows his world history and brings impressive historical context and depth to all his works.

Canadian preacher, (very readable!) author and Wesleyan scholar Victor Shepherd knows his world history and brings impressive historical context and depth to all his works.

I’ve featured some of his notable quotes and insights here at the blog often, though it’s been a while.

Shepherd once gave a sermon on Revelation 16:1-23 that I saved in what I call my “keeper file” where I store quotes and sermons and articles and speeches that I might refer to for sourcing or research some day.

For this series on Revelation I came across Shepherd’s aforementioned sermon and I can see why I kept it: it’s definitely a “keeper,” chock full of incisive material on Revelation.

That said, it’s dated: Shepherd wrote and delivered this sermon way back in 1992, when the Soviet Union was still an “evil empire” to contend with!

As out-dated as it may be, the sermon still says a lot about oppressive, evil empires of the sort that John of Patmos and the early Christians had to contend with.

What I like about Dr. Shepherd’s work is that he knows his world history–he brings impressive historical context and depth to everything he writes or says.

So with no further of that old ado, here are some excerpts from Shepherd’s take on Revelation.

Or if you have the time and inclination, I urge you to read the whole wonderful sermon here.

    The book of Revelation has long been the happy hunting-ground of extremists. They reach into it and pull out any religious oddity at all. They do so inasmuch as they fail to understand something crucial.

    John does not communicate with his readers through abstract argument. John communicates by means of pictures. His pictures are vivid; no one could ever call them vague or bland or unremarkable.

    Think, for instance, of the picture of a dragon which fumes and spews and vomits at the same time as it slays Christ’s people. Not only are the pictures vivid; they are also immense, grotesque, and surreal. They would appear to come out of a science fiction novel or a horror movie.

    In fact most of John’s pictures he has borrowed from the books of Ezekiel and Daniel. Despite the fact that modern readers, at least initially, find John’s pictures off-putting, John expected his readers to find immense comfort and help and hope in the pictures.

    You see, John’s first readers were undergoing savage persecution; he wrote as he did to provide comfort and help and hope for people whose suffering was intense and relentless.

    As a matter of fact there are three books in the New Testament which were written specifically to sustain persecuted Christians: the gospel of Mark, the first epistle of Peter, and the book of Revelation.

    In the year 65 Nero, the Roman emperor, began brutalizing Christians in a vicious outburst worse than anything which had victimized Christians so far. Several years later Nero committed suicide.

    By the year 95 another Roman emperor, Domitian, picked up where Nero had left off. Persecution fell on Christians once again. The book of Revelation was written to provide comfort, help and hope to Christ’s people during Domitian’s reign of terror.

    * * *
    Think of the tyranny we have known in our own century, as well as the torture and torment connected with that tyranny. Stalin, Hitler, Pot Pol (the leader of the Khmer Rouge who liquidated millions), Mao Tse Tung, General Pinochet of Chile. What have all these men done? How many “ordinary” people cozied up to them, pretended to agree to the tyrant’s tyranny, were used by them, only to become inwardly what they thought they were only pretending to outwardly?

    In other words, how many supporters of these wicked men came to be stamped with the mark of the beast themselves? By way of answering my own question I often think of Klaus Barbie, known as “the butcher of Lyon”. Barbie deported thousands of French Jews to extermination camps and tortured indescribably the leaders of the French resistance movement. When Barbie was finally arrested (only three or four years ago), tried and convicted, prior to being sentenced he was asked if he had any regrets. “Yes, there is something I regret”, he replied, “I regret that there is still a Jew alive in the world.”

    In his psychedelic vision John imagines those men and women who play up to tyrannical Rome breaking out into loathsome, foul-smelling sores. Plainly John’s vision is rooted in the plagues of Egypt.

    You know the story of the seven plagues of Egypt. Pharaoh had enslaved and brutalized the Israelite people in Egypt. Through assorted instrumentalities God had pleaded with Pharaoh to let God’s people go free. Pharaoh had refused. And so another plague. After each refusal, another plague.

    God’s purpose in all of this was not to torment Pharaoh; God’s purpose is to relieve the oppressed and liberate the enslaved. In much the same way, says John, God is going to shake the leaders and supporters of tyrannical Rome in order that Christ’s people might be relieved.

    We must be aware of a most significant difference between the plagues visited upon Pharaoh and the judgement of God visited upon tyrannical rulers in Rome and ever since Rome. The plagues visited upon Pharaoh were sent in order to induce him to repent.

    “Change, Pharaoh”, God shouts at him, “Change, repent, while you have opportunity to do so, and let my people go.”

    The judgement visited upon Rome, however, is different. It does not aim at inducing Rome to repent.

    John has no expectation that Rome will ever repent. None. Tyrants, together with their flunkies, plan on remaining tyrannical indefinitely; they are not about to change anything.

    John has even more to tell us. In his vision he speaks of “foul spirits like frogs”. The foul spirits represent the stream of court flattery and lying propaganda which saturate any anti-human state. Oppressive regimes invariably use lying propaganda in order to deceive people and control them.

    Court flattery is the grovelling seen in functionaries who think that flattery will keep them alive when sincere people are put away. John tells us that the foul spirits — flattery and propaganda — eventually stir up the kings of the world and provoke them into an alliance against Rome. Of course! Propaganda incites a people to overstep itself. Flattery blinds leaders and people to reality. The blind leaders incite a blind people who overstep themselves, and their aggression galvanizes opposition from other nations.

    Within our own lifetime we need think only of Nazi Germany. The foul spirits (flattery and propaganda); opposition provoked in other nations; the alliance against Germany. The result? — the Reich that was supposed to last a thousand years as a demonstration of human superiority lasted only a few years and acquainted the world with new levels of depravity.

    And when Nazi Germany had crumbled, when its kingdom was in darkness (in the words of John) the faithful people of God who had groaned within it groaned no more. Centuries earlier John had said to beleaguered Christians, “However beaten-up you might be, don’t be beaten-down, because God has not forgotten you and will deliver you.”

    Armageddon, then, is not the world-ending nuclear holocaust which some people say God has ordained. Armageddon is any battle which the oppressors of this world provoke with other nations. Armageddon is the conflict in which other nations, provoked by a tyranny which has overstepped itself, become agents of God in releasing and relieving his people. …

    Because the descendants of Pharaoh and Nero and Domitian are still with us, and because they still torment all who point them out and resist them, John’s psychedelic tract will always be relevant.

    In concluding this sermon I want to leave something very important with you. Today we have probed together one chapter in a tract which aims at putting fresh heart in God’s people. Nonetheless, the chapter we have examined sounds utterly bleak, doesn’t it.

    Ancient Rome, Mediaeval Arabia, Napoleonic France, Nazi Germany, the USSR — written off, all of them, since all of them have been the beast. All have had the fifth bowl of John’s vision emptied on them, and their kingdoms, without exception, have become darkness. Written off.

    No! We must look to the last chapter of the book of Revelation. Listen to its opening words:

    Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal,
    flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the
    street of the city; also, on the other side of the river, the tree of
    life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month;

    and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

    John’s vision, ultimately, is of Eden restored. And into this paradise restored come the nations; to be sure, they are wounded, bloody, bleeding still from their former hostility to the Messiah-Lamb. Nonetheless, the tree of life, in this restored Eden, is for the healing of the nations.

    Today’s take-away from Victor Shepherd is:

    29. “Because the descendants of Pharaoh and Nero and Domitian are still with us, and because they still torment all who point them out and resist them, John’s psychedelic tract will always be relevant.”

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(This is the 28th post in our June series about the mystifying and mysterious and ultimately beautiful Book of Revelation.)

In the final two chapters (21 and 22) of Revelation, John’s strange and seemingly gloomy vision comes to a beautiful climax.



It’s here that he takes us on a tour of the holy city, the “New Jerusalem,” which is ever-illuminated by the light of the Lamb of God.

The city is walled, and yet the gates are open. It’s the most inclusive city imaginable as people of all nations, all races are welcome.

In this city, there is no need for anybody, in a manner of modern speaking, to “lock the doors.” In this great metropolis there is no violence, no injustice, no ill will toward anyone.

A river runs through it. The river’s source is the throne of God and the Lamb. It’s banks are full of splendid trees with healthy fruits.

The leaves of the trees–these are not just any leaves.

They are for the healing not only of individuals, but of whole nations. These leaves have the power to heal you or me, but also Iraq and Russia and Syria and Israel and, for that matter, the U.S.A.

In this city, ain’t nobody and no nation feelin’ no pain.

Today’s takeaway:

28. Revelation is, at bottom, a reminder that God is the God of healing power, a reminder that we’re all broken, violent-prone people in need of God’s endless love, extravagant grace and healing powers.

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(This is Day 27 of our 30-day consideration of Revelation, that much abused, misused and misunderstood final book in the Bible.)

Although Revelation is usually seen as a book of destruction, God’s fundamental identity is that of Creator. . . Revelation functions rightly when it invites us into worship. . .”

— Craig R. Koester, Vice President of Academic Affairs and New Testament scholar at Lutheran Seminary in Chicago

The Trinitarian God we worship and pray to is the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

Being a “Creator” means that God is creative, not destructive.

The Holy Spirit is "the Sustainer," empowering the people of God to advance the kingdom on earth as in heaven in creative ways.

The Holy Spirit is “the Sustainer,” empowering the people of God to advance the kingdom on earth as in heaven in creative ways.

Jesus (the Redeemer) never destroyed any lives; he didn’t even lash anybody when he was at his angriest with whip in hand in the Temple. The Holy Spirit (Sustainer) is at work 24-7 in this world, always moving in creative, constructive, healing ways.

That’s why so much “Rapture” and “Left Behind” and doomsday preaching that foresees a day when God will inflict pain and suffering and violent destruction on people is so ludicrous on the face of it.

* * *

Craig R. Koester, a keen Revelation scholar at Lutheran Seminary in Chicago, notes that in Revelation, God was introduced as the great Creator.

At an online Lutheran Seminary site Koester writes this of Revelation 4:1-11:

    Revelation’s vision of the heavenly throne room now introduces people to God, who is the Creator. The scene pictures a rightly ordered universe in which God is at the center. Around the throne are four living creatures, who represent the created order. The creatures’ faces are those of a wild and a domenstic animal, a bird, and a human being.

    The one with the human face does not take the central place of God, but with all creation joins in praise of God. The elders are the heavenly representatives of the community of faith. As they cast down their crowns before the throne, they recognize that God and not the elders is Lord of all.

    God is praised for being the Creator of all things. Although Revelation is usually seen as a book of destruction, God’s fundamental identity is that of Creator.

    This scene anticipates the outcome of the book, where God’s purposes culminate in new creation. The words “holy, holy, holy” and the images of casting down crowns by heaven’s glassy sea have inspired many of the hymns we use in worship. Revelation functions rightly when it invites us into worship too — which we do as we add our voices to the song.

He refers back to Revelation 4 in this take on the “New Jerusalem” described in Revelation 21:1-6 and 22:1-5:

    God was introduced as the Creator in Rev 4 and God’s final great act consists of new creation.

    The defeat of the forces of evil does not bring about the annihilation of the earth.

    Rather, it leads to God saying “I make all things new” (21:5).

    God’s future includes the resurrection of the dead but does not stop there. When death is vanquished creation itself is made new. God’s future is pictured as a city with a garden at its center. The human world and natural world are reconciled here. The tree of life stands within the city with its gates of pearl.

    These pearly gates are not guarded by Saint Peter as in the popular imagination. Rather the gates stand open all the time in order to invite people into the presence of God. Here the rivers that give life flow, the tree of life has leaves to heal the nations, and the radiant presence of God illumines the city. This is the future that beckons people everywhere.

    Those who are gripped by such a vision in turn ask how such scenes of life might shape a way of life now. To live in anticipation of New Jerusalem is to embrace its way of life and to bear witness to the purposes of God, whose work as the author of creation and new creation is ultimately life.

Today’s takeaway:

27. “To live in anticipation of New Jerusalem is to embrace its way of life and to bear witness to the purposes of God, whose work as the author of creation and new creation is ultimately life.”

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(This is Day 26 of our 30-day examination of the all-too-misunderstood Book of Revelation.)

John of Patmos was led by an angel for a tour of the magnificent new city.

John of Patmos was led by an angel for a tour of the magnificent new city.

Genesis and Revelation are the bookends to the entire story of how God works and will work in the world.

At the end of Revelation, in chapter 21, we envision with John of Patmos a new creation–a new heaven and earth–in which unity that was there “in the beginning” is re-established in a radical way.

Recall that in the beginning … day was divided into morning and evening. In the glorious end as seen in Revelation, there will be no more darkness (Revelation 21:25).

In the beginning … the earth, sea and sky were separated from each other (Genesis 1:9-10). In the end, “the sea will be no more” (Revelation 21:1).

In the beginning … the sun was there to light the day and the moon (Genesis 1:16). In the glorious end . . . a gorgeous new city will have the Lamb for a lamp. (Revelation 21:23).

* * * *

Genesis is the story of one collapse after another. In Genesis, humankind is so broken and sin-sick that families (and creation itself) are always breaking down.

If Genesis shows us anything, it shows that the “dysfunctional family” became the “new normal” a long, long time ago.

* * * *

The good news of Revelation is that a beautiful city of “pure gold” with foundations adorned of “every precious stone” will come down from heaven.

John, whose brilliant book of Revelation if full of Old Testament references, harks back to Genesis 2:10-12. In that scripture we find a river in Eden that waters the garden. It divides into four branches, the first being Pishon, which flows through a land of gold and other treasures.

In the new city, the angel leads John to the river of life-giving water that sparkles like crystal (Revelation 22:1). We end up seeing the wonderful “the tree of life.”

* * * *

In what is called “the beatific vision,” communion between humankind and God will be restored in a new way.

In the end, Paradise ruined with its tainted garden will be a new and improved Paradise in the form of a magnificent city.

* * * *

Today’s take-away:

26. For all its imagery of gloom and doom, Revelation is, in the final analysis, a beautiful and divine gift.

Catch the vision and keep hope alive!

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(This is Day 25 of our 30-day breakdown of the book of Revelation.)

To frame Revelation in military history terms …

American forces that landed at Normandy and pushed back the Nazis on D-Day won the war on that eventful day: from that day on the future belonged to the Allied forces.

And yet the ultimate victory was yet to be won–the American and Allied forces had a lot of challenging military work to do until the fullness of the war’s win at Omaha Beach was realized.

That’s how it is in the big Christian scheme of things. We know that the victory over death and evil was accomplished on Resurrection Day.

And yet . . . the victory has not yet been fully accomplished.

Until it is, we hope-filled Christians have work to do in advancing the kingdom of God and Heaven that Jesus ushered in. We still have our banners to carry in what are often thorny and even dangerous fields.

Richard Bauckham, the esteemed British scholar on Revelation who I’ve featured in this series about Revelation a couple of times before, has preached some wonderful sermons from the about the biblical book.

Here’s a quotable excerpt about living out the values of Jesus in this mad, mad, mad, mad world from one of Dr. Bauckham’s sermons on Advent, with my italics for emphasis:

    If the future belongs to Jesus Christ, it belongs to the people who live as Jesus did–not the ambitious self-seeking people who carve out a future for themselves, but the people who live lives of love and service, often largely unnoticed, gaining no credit for themselves, notching up no obvious achievements, giving up perhaps the futures they might have had for themselves in order to devote themselves to others. These are the people to whom the future belongs because it belongs to Jesus Christ.

    Therefore, since we know that the future of the world is Jesus Christ’s future, we can live our own lives towards that future. We need not be taken in by the way the world seems to be going, we need not imagine that the way the world is the way it must be, we need not accept that the future belongs to the people and the forces that seem to have the power to create it and to destroy it.

    In the end the future belongs to Jesus Christ. So we can live against the grain of our world, we can live out the values of Jesus, we can come alongside the suffering and the excluded, the neglected and the dying, we can oppose injustice and defy death, we can do all these things because–whatever appearances might suggest–they are the direction in which the future lies.

    A lot of good things go on in our world that may not often make the headlines. There are people and groups and movements whose first priority is the sort of needy people Jesus cared most about. …

    There are also people who work for peace and justice and the good of God’s creation in the corridors of power. We need to support them too with prayer and encouragement. These are the ways we can practice hope. These are ways we can live the conviction that the future belongs to Jesus Christ and to his priorities for the world. We cannot single-handedly create the future, which is God’s to give. But we can live in the direction of his future.

The whole sermon–“The Future of Jesus Christ”–can be found here.

Today’s takeaway:

25. “We cannot single-handedly create the future, which is God’s to give. But we can live in the direction of his future.”

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(This is another installment in our examination of the much used, abused, misunderstood and misused book of Revelation.)

The Bible points to God’s new world, where heaven and earth are fully integrated at last, and whose central feature is the personal, loving and healing presence of Jesus himself, the living embodiment of the one true God as well as the prototype of full, liberated humanity.

When we talk about Jesus’ “coming”, the reality to which we point is his personal presence within God’s new creation.

— N.T. “Tom” Wright

Back in 1999, in answer to all the anxiety that surrounded the 2000 Millennium, the great Anglican theologian N.T. Wright wrote an article titled “Apocalyse Now?”

You can read the whole, eloquently written enchilada here.

Don't fear the apocalypse. Revel in the promise of the Second Coming.

Don’t fear the apocalypse. Revel in the promise of the Second Coming.

What follows was adapted from the provocative article in which Wright gets it right, as usual.

    Jesus’ resurrection was the prototype, the beginning and the model for the new world that is yet to be. His coming out of the tomb into a new life was the personal, close-up equivalent of the Israelites emerging from their slavery in Egypt.

    The hope is that God will eventually do for the whole creation what he did for Jesus; God is at work in the present, by the Spirit of Jesus, to prepare the world for that great remaking, that great unveiling (that great apocalypse, in fact) of the future plan.

    But that future, when it arrives, will not mean the abandonment of the present world, but rather its fulfillment. The whole creation, says Paul, will be liberated from its present enslavement to the forces of decay and death.

    You don’t liberate something by destroying it.

    All the beauty, all the goodness, all the pulsating life of the present creation, is to be enhanced, lifted to a new level, in the world that is to be. There is no room here for the dualism that goes with so much apocalypticism. Rather there is a strong incentive to work, in the present, to anticipate the new world in every possible way.

    Those who are grasped by the vision of God’s new world unveiled in Jesus’ resurrection are already sharing in that newness, and are called to produce, in the present time, more and more signposts to point to this eventual and glorious future.

    The central feature of the hope held out in the Bible is of course the personal presence of Jesus himself. Many Christians, not least those who tend towards apocalypticism, have reduced this feature of the hope to the belief that one day Jesus will appear, flying downwards from the sky, perhaps riding on a cloud. This event, the “second coming”, is in fact the event for which many of the groups who see great significance in the year 2000 are getting ready, not least those going off to Jerusalem to witness it.

    However, most of the biblical passages that are quoted in support of the idea of Jesus returning by flying downwards on a cloud are best seen as classic examples of apocalyptic language, rich biblical metaphor. They are not to be taken with wooden literalness.

    “The son of man coming on the clouds”, in Mark 13.26 and elsewhere, does not refer to Jesus’ return to earth, but to Jesus’ vindication, “coming” from earth to heaven, to be enthroned as Lord of the world. …

    And the one occasion when Paul uses the language of descent and ascent (1 Thessalonians 4.16) is almost certainly to be taken in the same way, as a vivid metaphorical description of the wider reality he describes at more length in Romans and 1 Corinthians.

    Does this mean abandoning belief in the “second coming”?

    Certainly not.

    It means taking seriously the whole biblical picture, instead of highlighting, and misinterpreting, one part of it.

    The problem has been, in the last two centuries in particular, that certain texts have been read from within the worldview of dualistic apocalypticism, and have thus produced a less than fully biblical picture, with Jesus flying around like a spaceman and the physical world being destroyed.

    And if we really suppose – as, alas, many seem to – that this will be the meaning of the Millennium, we will miss the point entirely.

    Rather, the Bible points to God’s new world, where heaven and earth are fully integrated at last, and whose central feature is the personal, loving and healing presence of Jesus himself, the living embodiment of the one true God as well as the prototype of full, liberated humanity.

    When we talk about Jesus’ “coming”, the reality to which we point is his personal presence within God’s new creation.

Today’s takeaway about the Second Coming:

24. Don’t fear the Second Coming. It’s going to be the best day you ever had.

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(This is Day 23 or our 30-day examination of Revelation.)

God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours.’”

— Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter

A lot of wrongheaded interpretations of Revelation have it that God is going to nuke the earth in the end–totally destroy it.

The Bible raises up the vision of a new creation a lot, going back to Isaiah in the Old Testament.

Right-wing profiteer Ann Coulter, who unfortunately has a huge following, says God gave us dominion over earth and that we therefore have a right to "rape" God's creation.

Right-wing profiteer Ann Coulter, who unfortunately has a huge following, says God gave us dominion over earth and that we therefore have a right to “rape” God’s creation.

But prophecies of a new creation don’t mean God plans to replace this world with something brand new. John’s vision in Revelation foresees the time when God will renew what he created in the beginning. God is going to radically transform this creation into a new form of existence. There’s going to be a massive renovation.

Let it be noted that the Greek word kaine used for the “new” earth in Revelation 21:1 can mean either “renewed” or “new.”

Those who believe that God is going to nuke the earth–and those believers, by the way, tend to look in their crystal balls and see the end coming in our lifetime–are plenty happy to pollute and chip away at God’s creation in destructive ways.

And then there are right-wing extremists like Ann Coulter–who unfortunately has a huge following in America–who think it’s a perfectly good and Christian thing to “rape” the earth because, in her always twisted, amateur theology, God gave us dominion over everything on earth.

* * *

In yesterday’s post I featured the British Revelation scholar Richard Bauckham. He once noted in a sermon during Advent that “God has not made a disposable creation, a throwaway world, but a world that he values and cherishes to the extent that he will not let it perish, but will give it new life eternally.”

Said Bauckham:

    “That says something about the value of every human being, precious to God, destined for eternity. But not only humans. How arrogant of us to think, as Christians often have, that we are the only creatures God values and cherishes to such an extent. No, God’s future is for his whole creation. And so we should value it too.”

Today’s takeaway:

23. God created the heavens and earth and saw that it was good, and expects us to take care of creation until he restores it to something even greater than the original garden in Genesis. That, in a nutshell, is what Revelation tells us.

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(This is Day 22 of our 30-day breakdown of the book of Revelation.)

“Actually there is a remarkable parallel between the beginning of the Bible and the end. In Genesis 3 we see Adam and Eve in paradise – before the fall. Then in the last chapter of Revelation, the last chapter of the whole Bible, we see paradise restored. We see the tree of life (from Genesis 3) now flourishing beside the water of life that flows through the centre of the new Jerusalem. The end is a return to the beginning, but it is much more than that. There’s no city of Jerusalem in Genesis 3. At the end paradise is restored, but with added value. The end exceeds the beginning.”

— Richard Bauckham, eminent scholar on the Book of Revelation, in a sermon

Dr. Richard Bauckham, one of the most acclaimed of Revelation scholars, gives a concise overview of the Bible’s strangest book in this sit-down with United Methodist theologian Ben Witherington Jr.

Bauckham agrees with Witherington that the book is a call to martyrdom, not a call to take up arms. Revelation is what Witherington describes as “a farewell to arms.”

The two agree that the judgment aspect is about leaving judgment to God.

It’s worth eight minutes of your time to hear this conversation between these two biblical scholars.

Today’s takeaway is:

22. The aspects of judgment and gloom and doom are far outweighed, Dr. Bauckham notes, by the author John of Patmos’s call to simply follow the way of Jesus and to stay grounded in hope and expectation of God’s good creation restored and, in fact, improved up.

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