Revelation

God will wipe away all our tears. 21:1-8

 
Introduction

This small passage introduces the last major section of the book of Revelation - The new heavens and the new earth. John employs vivid imagery to describe the glory of the age to come when the kingdom of God is realized in power, when darkness is overwhelmed and victory secured. In this introductory passage, John sees the core reality of the age to come: God is with his people, caring for them and comforting them.

 
The passage

v1. In the opening verse, John witnesses the transformation of all things - a new heaven and a new earth.

v2. John sees the "Holy City, the new Jerusalem." This city is "prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." The image, of course, is that of the bride of Christ, the people of God, the assembled brotherhood of Christ. The image of the assembly of believers "coming down", represents a restored humanity in a new dimension, an amalgamation of the earthly and heavenly realms.

v3. John hears a loud voice, a voice of authority, declaring a mighty truth. The shechinah glory of the Lord (his radiant presence, his person in all its fullness) now resides, dwells, tabernacles, with his people. The promise to Israel, all those years ago, is now a reality: "they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."

v4. As our intimate friend, God will console us in our troubles; he will wipe away every tear. The context implies that the troubles for which God will console us are the troubles of this age, an age now passing away. Christ has opened the seals and dealt with the pains of this age.

v5 God now speaks: "I am making everything new". The process of renewal begins; darkness in chaos recedes. God's proclamation to the suffering community of Christ is that all things are being renewed right now, cf. 2Cor.4:16-18. The age of renewal has begun and will extend into eternity. Stunned by this revelation, John is prompted to "write this down", he is to write down his vision.

v6. The prophetic vision has now ended and the one who is the beginning of all things and the end of all things, makes a promise to his suffering people: life-giving water is theirs at journey's end.

v7. The believer, who holds onto their faith in Christ, is assured victory.

v8. For those without faith, eternal death awaits them. A list of eight examples is supplied. Sadly, we will toy with many of these evils during our Christian walk and so we are reminded that our standing before God is wholly of grace.

 
Discussion

1. What is the Holy City, and where is it coming from and coming to?

2. What is the most striking feature of this city, this "bride beautifully dressed"? v3

3. What effect does the truth that the old order will pass away in the age to come, have on us now?

 
No more mourning or crying

In Australia, the classic response to the difficulties of life is "don't worry, she'll be right mate." The fact is, it may not get right and in any case, it is my worrying about it that is the main problem. If only I could stop worrying and start living - accept the trouble and get on with life. In truth, most of us are debilitated by the emotional stress caused by our problems, rather than by the problems themselves.

How then do we handle the "death, or mourning, or crying, or pain," of this old order of things? What means do we have to wipe every tear from our eyes? There are some obvious practical steps that can aid us in rightly addressing the pressures of life.

We must first identify the problem, assessing the cause and our emotional reaction to it. When faced with a problem it is essential to be able to articulate how we feel about the situation we now face: "I feel afraid; I feel guilty...." and so on. We must then match those feelings with the problem itself. Often, our feelings are a reaction to subconscious thoughts which may not be at all relevant to the situation we face. So, we must ask, is this reaction of mine rational or irrational? Irrational mood-swings are just that, the mood of the moment, and they have no right to dictate life-choices.

Having identified the problem (the cause) and analyzed our feelings, we must then consider our response. A practical response-plan is best carried out in the preparation of a plan of action.

A good way to prepare a plan of action is by documenting our efforts in a "Problem Book." At the top of the page of a plain exercise book we set out the problem (problem #?), then we express how we feel about it and finally we list the possible solutions. These solutions inevitably become our plan of action. When we are worried by one of our problems we simply turn to it in our "Problem Book" and see if anything has changed. If not, and there is nothing new to add, then we place the book back in a draw, lock it if possible, and leave it at that - out of sight, out of mind!

This approach can lift much of the burden of life's pressures, particularly as we are freed from the neurotic need to constantly mull over them. Yet, it is the vision of the eternal that truly wipes every tear from our eyes. Honestly facing the pressures of life is the essential first step toward dealing with them, but it is viewing them in the light of eternity that gives them their true place in the scheme of things. The troubles of this age seem beyond solution, but Christ has broken the seals and confounded the darkness with light. "The old order of things" is passing away, "now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them" and "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain." In part, this is our experience at the moment, but the age is dawning when we will experience the tender and comforting hand of our God in all its fullness. Then indeed will every tear be wiped from our eyes. It is the vision of the Holy City in the age to come that aids us in drying our eyes today.

 
 
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