Hope in the Dark – All Things New

Tony Sammut   -  

DAY 1: A New Heaven and New Earth…

Take a moment in silence and stillness.  Then read Revelation 21:1-8.

If you’ve been tracking through the Revelation of John with us over these last couple months, then congratulations!!  After so many chapters of seals, and trumpets, and bowls, beasts and dragons, martyrs and suffering and judgement – we’re finally coming to what it’s all been leading to…

Everything. Made. New.

A new heaven.  A new earth.  A new Jerusalem.  A new temple.  A new people.

And note the direction.  While many of us often think of us going UP to heaven, it’s actually heaven that comes DOWN to earth.  Isn’t this just one more example of God’s incredible, humble kindness to us?  He descends toward us.  He meets us on our level.

But it’s so much more than just that.  It’s a complete transformation of everything.  Heaven and earth have always been connected – not meant to be two separate dimensions.  But now, they become completely intertwined.  There is no longer a heaven and an earth, but now an intertwined heaven-and-earth, where the “old” of both has completely passed away and the new reality is birthed.  Even the old heaven alone was not enough!

And this coming together will be so incredible, John can’t help but to mix in all the most joy-filled images he can think of.  It’s like a wedding day (v. 2).  It’s like having a person of great honour choosing to stay with you (v. 3).  It’s like a complete recovery from a horrific accident (v. 4).  It’s like the birth of a new member into a family (v. 7).  And all of these things at once – only better!

And at the centre of all of this: “Look!  God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God…” (v. 3).

This has always been God’s ultimate intention – to dwell with his people.  To be at our centre.  And for us to know him as our Source of light and life and hope.   And though the Revelation tells us this will one day be our ultimate reality, the rest of the story assures us that God is working this out even now.  Today.  In this moment.

Jesus has come to dwell with us.  To be God with us.  And to enable us to dwell in Him (John 15:1-8).

Though your circumstances may not resemble anything like the picture in this passage, each day you are given an opportunity to invite Jesus to dwell with you, and to dwell/abide in him. 

Take a moment and reflect on your day ahead. 

What plans do you have?  What people will you see?  What projects will you be working on?  Invite Jesus to dwell with you through each one of these things.  Ask him to make you aware and attentive to His presence, so that seeds of His New Creation can be planted through your life – even today!

Day 2: A New City…

Take a moment in silence and stillness.  Then read Revelation 21:9-27.

The new creation is not just full of beauty and joy – it’s full of light!

Bright light!  Light is shining from The Source that is everywhere and all the time, and reflecting off of everything.  Gold so pure and polished it’s like glass, which reflects the brilliant intensity of the light.  And gems – of every different colour – that parse out the incredible dimensions of the light into all its rainbow diversity.  Dazzling light and colour everywhere.

And this isn’t just a picture of beauty.  It’s a picture of holy.

Temple imagery is all over this passage.  The 12 gems of the city’s foundations bring to mind the 12 gems that adorned the ephod (garment) of Israel’s high priest.  Each gem represented one of the tribes of Israel, and were worn over the high priest’s heart as he represented them in his temple work.

More than that, the dimensions of the city describe holy.  The angel measures them out.  It’s a massive area, about 1500 miles in each direction.  And in every dimension!  The city is described as a perfect, enormous cube.  Israel’s ancient Temple had included a similar structure, just much smaller: the Holy of Holies, where the high priest alone would enter, and that only once a year to offer sacrifices for God’s people.  Now all of God’s people, from all the nations, dwell in this enormous most holy place, all the time.

And to top it all off, the gates are never shut. Which means there’s absolutely no fear in this holy place.  Nothing and no one will come into this place as an intruder or disrupter.  No one who loves dark things would dare enter this place full of light (v 8, 27).  This holy light will continually protect and purify all who live in the city.

But what is most amazing of all is that this image that John sees is that it’s not merely a description of a city, it’s a description of a people – “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (v. 10).  This is who we will be, and what we will look like in the New Creation.

Full of brilliant light and colour.  Made holy and pure.  Dwelling in the very presence of God Himself.

Take a moment.

Imagine the beautiful light and brilliant holiness of God shining all over you.  What about this might make you want to hide or run away?  What about this gives you a sense of joy and thrill?  Share what comes to mind with God, and ask him to speak to you about it.

Day 3: A New Eden…

Take a moment in silence and stillness.  Then read Revelation Rev. 22:1-5

This incredible scene tells us two things about the New Heaven and New Earth.

It’s complete.

It’s what the original garden of Eden was always meant to become.  Not to remain merely a garden, but to blossom into its full potential – a garden-city.  Not lacking any of its wild, fruitful beauty, but also bustling with creativity, design, and development.  Total flourishing on every level.

And it’s completely restored.

Many years before, the prophet Ezekiel had seen a very similar scene of restoration (Eze. 47).  And its a scene that shows the bringing together of all that was undone in the first place (Gen. 3).  Instead of leaves being used to cover over sin and shame, the leaves of these trees are for the healing of the nations.  Instead of thorns and thistles, the trees are constantly bearing fruit. Instead of humanity being cast out of God’s presence, all the nations are coming in to the city to worship Him.  All things have been made right.  The curse has been reversed.

And the water from the river of life is what takes the life-giving, curse-reversing goodness of God and spreads it beyond the boundaries of the city into all the corners of the world.

Take a moment and consider an area of your life that is in need of healing and restoration…

A broken relationship…

A traumatic experience…

Perhaps something that you know is not right within, but you can’t quite put a finger on what it is…

Pray these images over your own life…  Then consider someone else who you can pray them over.

That the leaves of the trees would heal you so completely, you won’t need to hide or be ashamed.

That you would experience fruitfulness and joy instead of frustration and exhaustion.

That you’d experience a new intimacy with God, knowing and walking in His presence.

That God’s renewing and life-giving waters would flow out of your own life for the benefit of others.

Day 4: Only Jesus

Take a moment in silence and stillness.  Then read Revelation 22:6-11.

Now, after all that John has seen and heard – the unfolding of evil, suffering, judgement, and final restoration – he is overwhelmed.  So he falls down and worships the angel who had shown him all of this.  The angel quickly rebukes him, saying, “Don’t do that!  I am a fellow servant with you… Worship God!”

We may be surprised at how John could make this mistake – for the second time, no less (see Rev. 19:10)!  After seeing all that he’s seen, how could he direct his worship at anything less than Christ?

Listen to the reflection of Eugene Peterson on this in his book, Reversed Thunder…

“Why is [John] having such a hard time getting it right?  Why do we?  Because it is easier.  It is easier to indulge in ecstasies than to engage in obedience.  It is easier to pursue a fascination with the supernatural than to enter into the service of God…

…The way St. John’s Book of Revelation has been treated by many of his readers is similar to the way he himself treated the revealing angel, but without the promptly heeded angelic rebuke.  It is difficult to worship God instead of messengers.  And so people get interested in everything in this book except God, losing themselves in symbol-hunting, intrigue with numbers, speculating with frenzied imaginations on times and seasons, despite Jesus’ severe stricture against it (Acts 1:7).  The number of intelligent and devout people prostrate before the angel, deaf to his rebuke, is depressing and inexcusable.  For nothing is more explicit in this book than that it is about God.  It is the revelation of Jesus Christ, not the end of the world, not the identity of the antichrist, not the timetable of history.”

Reflect on this tendency for a moment, and how it plays out in your own life.

In what ways are you drawn to worship messengers instead of the One the message is about, gifts instead of the Giver, created things instead of the Creator to whom all creation points?

Confess any specific ways that have come to mind for you, and redirect your worship, delight, and desires to Jesus.  Ask Him to help you see and savour Him more fully.

Listen and worship to finish your time today…

Day 5: “Come!”

Take a moment in silence and stillness.  Then read Revelation 22:12-21

The book of revelation ends with what we might compare to a chorus of bells, all chiming different notes of the same passionate cry.  Each one rings, and then is responded to with the next.

“Look, I am coming soon!”, says Jesus.

The Spirit and the bride respond, “Come!”

And not just them, but everyone else is invited to hear and see this message of Jesus and join the chorus, “Come!”

All who are thirsty are invited to “Come!  And take the free gift of the water of life.”

It won’t be much longer, Jesus says, “Yes, I am coming soon!”

Hopefully this echo of choruses stirs something deep in your heart, even if you can’t put a finger on it.  “I’m coming soon!”  “Yes, come!”  “Everyone is invited to come!  Come and drink life!”  “I’m coming soon!!”

This is the heart cry of every one of us – whether we realize it or not – as we find ourselves in the middle of this epic drama, parched and thirsting for a good and right resolution, and yet struggling to find it.   We cry out – come!!  Come and bring an ending to pain, confusion, suffering and evil!  Come and bring a new beginning of life and light and holiness and fruitfulness!

Jesus says, “Look, I am coming soon!”

But he not only responds to our heart-cry, he shares his own.  He calls out “Come!  Anyone who hears me calling, Come!  Anyone who is thirsty, Come, and take the free gift of the water of life!”

Even at the last, Jesus so passionately longs for the world to know Him, that He extends the call to the world as passionately as the world is extending the call to him!

“I am coming!” “Come!” “All of you, come!” “I am coming!”

Take a moment and allow this passage to stir in you a longing for His coming.  Pray this longing out. 

Now, consider Jesus’ longing not only for you, but for your friends, your family, our nation, and all nations to come to Him.  Pray this longing of Jesus for all nations to come to Him.