Tuesday, December 6, 2022
I am very much into reading the Bible literately; that is, as the literature of the book dictates. The Gospels demand to be read literally: Jesus did not convince people to share their food, but multiplied the fish and the loaves on two separate occasions. However, poems and parables are full of symbolic imagery; no one should say that Jesus meant the rocks would ACTUALLY sing (though he could make them) or that the trees have hands or that the mountains have throats. (Isaiah 55:12)
Revelation is Apocalyptic literature, meaning it is full of metaphor and symbolism. A dragon chases a woman into the wilderness when the women instantly grows wings and flies off to safety… we aren’t seeing something that will play out *literally*. Be assured, poetic imagery is just as true as “literal history”. God wins… that’s not a metaphor nor a feeling, but a fact. But there won’t be a woman on a beast, but a city full of imperial power eaten by her own pride, gluttony, lust, and sin.
We can see the metaphor and symbolism in the last 2/3 of the chapter this morning. The city has twelve gates, twelves angels, twelve tribes, twelve foundation stones, each a different costly stone, twelve apostles. The city is a cube, 1200 stadia (in the Greek) long, wide, and tall. The walls are 144 cubits thick. Notice how often twelve is used! Even the length is 12*1000 and the thickness is 12*12! How should we read and interpret the clear metaphor and symbolism we see in the last part of Revelation 21 could be an interesting puzzle.
However, that’s not the most important thing. Moreover, it’s not my favorite verse in the Bible.
Revelation 21:1-8 does not produce in me a desire to pick apart metaphor and symbolism. I readily admit that I am constantly trying to understand the Bible based on genre, but I can’t help but read 21:1-8, as not only a literal description of the beginning of forever, but I lose any “objectivity” and place myself in the text. I see the brilliant shining holy city of God, the promised home for all believers, big enough to fit us all, dead and living, coming down from heaven. A loud voice calls out that we are promised that God will be with us, be our God, we his people, and he will dwell among us. I watch as God himself, with something like the hands of a father who has worked in a field, radiating strength, calloused from work, yet gentle to touch his child, reaches out, and he cups my head in his hands. He uses his thumb to wipe the tears (of joy? Sorrow? Relief?) from my eyes. He pulls me into a hug.
I am home at long last.
While I encourage you to study and understand the Bible always, to question it and pull at it, because it is strong enough for our hardest probing because the truth has nothing to fear… I want you to believe it’s true. It is true that God will take the time to wipe our tears away. Mine, yours, and all those who believed, from the distant past to the far future. The resurrection will lead to life eternal, and we will drink from the spring of the water of life. I will be with my Father, because God will be my God and I will be his son. But I will also be with my father, my mother, my grandparents, those who have been with me along this journey of life but have died. And the entire family of God will be raised to life, all those who have been faithful. One day, death, mourning, crying, and pain will be no more. There is a new order of things; all is life, joy, shouting, and pleasure!
“East Wall, Middle Gate.”
I have a good friend whose family and friends know that this is the meeting place in the New Jerusalem. What a powerful way to believe in the truth of Revelation. That’s the kind of faith my favorite verses in the Bible should engender in us. We are so confident in the love, power, and promises of God we have a plan to meet as a family (all of us brothers and sisters) in the new Jerusalem.
May your faith never waver, may your hope never falter, and may you stand among those who have overcome in the new heavens and new earth.
See you at the East Wall, Middle Gate.
- Revelation is a hard book. Sometimes, when trying to figure a book out, we can forget to read the message. How can you live into the truth of Revelation today? Instead of trying to figure it out, how can you rest secure in the knowledge that one day God will fulfill all his promises and all things will be made new?
- Do you have a favorite verse of the Bible? How does it help you grow in faith? Ask God to put someone in your path who needs the message in your favorite Bible verse and then share it with them when God puts them in your path.