Tonight, we will be reading through Revelation 21-22. We have reached the end. The teleological, eschatological, conclusion to not only the Revelation to John but to the entirety of Scripture and the story of God and humanity. If you have time, please go back and review the great themes of Revelation that we discussed back in May and see how these themes reach their resolution here.
The Fate of the Nations:
As we have read through John’s vision this summer, there are two primary groups of people – the persecuted witnesses (martyrs) of the Church and the nations and their kings. As we have looked at repeatedly, the nations begin in deception, idolatry, and violence, and then are destroyed in battle, devoured by fire, eaten by birds, and ultimately thrown into the lake of fire. Despite the judgment, they are unrepentant of their murders, sorceries, and immoralities. Rev. 9:21. All the nations have drunk the wine of Babylon’s impure passions and all the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her. Rev. 17:2, 18:3. The Dragon assembles the kings and the whole world to do battle against God and his saints. Rev. 16:4, 19:19, 20:9. And they are destroyed. Rev. 19:21, 20:9, 21:8. The kings and the nations were deceived and they suffered the consequences of the deception. Rev. 12:9, 13:14, 18:23, 20:8. This is the vision that John has for all of those who stand against God and the Lamb and persecute the witnesses and the church.
However, at the very end of John’s vision, something changes. John tells us that “by its light (the glory of God and the Lamb) shall the nations walk, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it (the New Jerusalem) . . . they shall bring into it the glory and honor of the nations.” Rev. 22:24, 26. And in the New Jerusalem beside the River of Life stands the Tree of Life whose “leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations, and there shall no more be anything accursed.” Rev. 22:2b-3. God has destroyed the Dragon who is the Deceiver and the Accuser, he has destroyed the Beast representing the system of political violence and economic exploitation, and he destroyed all that is in us which partakes of murder, fornication, sorcery, idolatry, and lying. The deception and the curse have been broken and John’s vision is that by his Light and the Tree of Life, all nations and kings will enter the New Jerusalem.
This entry of all the nations into the everlasting presence of God is what Jonah saw and why he ran away. Jonah 4:2. This is what Paul means when he writes that at the name of Jesus every knee shall joyfully bow, and every tongue shall joyfully confess that Jesus is Lord. Phil 2:10-11. This is what Jesus himself proclaims that when he is lifted up, he will draw all nations to himself because the ruler of this world (i.e. the Dragon) will be cast out. John 12:31-32. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that all of the tribes and nations of the earth will be blessed through him. Gen. 12:4, 22:18, Gal. 3:8.
If we read Revelation backwards, we can see hints of this final comprehensive reconciliation. Those who have conquered the Beast, sing a new song “Who shall not fear and glorify thy name, O Lord/For thou alone art holy/All the nations shall come and worship thee/ for thy judgments have been revealed.” Rev. 15:4b. The angel of the Lord is seen as harvesting the whole earth, saints and rebels alike. Rev. 14:16. And early on, John sees those who have gone through the tribulation, have been shepherded by the Lamb to the springs of living water so that every tear will be wiped away. Rev. 7:14-17. This early vision is not of the saints, for the saints have already partaken of the living water. Rather, this vision is of the deceived rebellious nations who went through the judgment and whom Christ has now brought to the water of life and the healing powers of the tree of life. Rev. 22:2. Those who are (spiritually) well have no need of a physician to give them the living waters and the fruit of the tree of life, for the Lamb calls not the righteous, but the sinners. Mark 2:17.
John has a vision of the final reconciliation of all creation. For God is making (present active indicative) all things new. Rev. 21:5. As we looked in our discussion of Heschel, God’s judgment is always contingent and never final, for he will not always chide nor will he keep his anger forever. Ps. 103:9.
John ends his Revelation with an epilogue. Rev. 22:6-21. The overall theme of this epilogue is one of invitation and promise. The Church in the Spirit (the same Spirit John was in when given the Revelation (Rev. 1:10)) invites others to come with the promise of the gift of life. Rev. 22:13. The invitation is simply to “Come” and “partake of the waters of life without price.” Rev. 22:17. Come and gather round the loving, liberating, life-giving person of Jesus Christ. For the battle has been won, the spell has been broken, and the curse has been lifted. That is the Good News.
- Please remember Messiah’s noonday Eucharist each Wednesday.
Tonight is a night of celebration. We will have an Italian Wedding Feast for Dinner beginning at 6:30. An abbreviated discussion of our readings, with a concluding Eucharistic Celebration. Come and join us.
All the nations thou hast made shall comePsalm 89:6
and bow down before thee, O Lord,
and shall glorify thy name.