What does a perfect world look like to you?
This lesson attempts to take in chapters 19-22, a huge amount of material. It can be broken down into a couple parts:
Chapter 19 with the two suppers. One is desirable to be a part of; the other? Not so much. In this chapter, we see Christ come to get His bride as the hero on a white horse and vanquish his enemies, the conclusion to every good novel or movie.
Chapter 20 is all about the millennium and the events that immediately precede and follow it. There is a sense of finality to the judgment here with the lake of fire.
Revelation 21-22 presents a world that takes the Old Testament prophecies of restoration and expands them. Take for instance Isaiah 65 where there is still death hinted at in the restored world and compare it with Revelation where even death is abolished. The hopes of ancient Israel and God’s modern Israel (the church) are fulfilled in the final restoration. A New Heavens and New Earth restores Eden to God’s people.
Verses 1-5 seem to be a continuation of rejoicing over the fall of Babylon from ch. 18. The moral question remains if it is right to rejoice over someone else’s suffering. . .
Verses 6-10 speak of the first supper—the marriage supper of the lamb. A challenge presented here is the identity of the bride. God’s bride in the Old Testament is his people, and in several places, Ellen White says the same, but in ch. 21, the bride is the New Jerusalem. If the city is also symbolic of the “people”, then there isn’t a problem here. But who, then, are those invited to the marriage supper if not the people of God? Is this the distinction between God’s final generation who go through the great tribulation who constitute His bride, and the rest of the saved who are invited? Difficult questions, and maybe no easy answers. The good news is that we’re all invited to the marriage supper of the lamb.
John’s worship of the angel is surprising; he’ll do it again in 22:8. But it indicates how easy worship is, and how carefully we must guard against false worship.
God uses marriage language between himself and His people. What makes such imagery or metaphor so meaningful for us? What kind of intimacy does God wish to have with us?
Jesus is now pictured as the conquering warrior, the “Word of God” (a phrase only used in the gospel of John and here, suggesting the same author), and the king of kings who wears many diadems.
The second supper is the “great supper of God” where the wicked, probably those who perish at His 2nd Coming because of His word (the sword from His mouth), are “fed to the birds.” The imagery is grotesque, but signifies the victory of Christ in saving his bride from the evil hordes.
How do you compare the picture of the meek and lowly Jesus of the gospels with this image of a conquering King at war? Does the picture of Jesus cleansing the temple contribute to this picture?
This chapter alone might take several lessons, but here might be pointed out that God’s conclusion to the great controversy includes both the resurrection of the righteous at Christ’s coming, and a second resurrection. The wicked are raised, and I cannot help but think that the questions of the saints—what if they were given just one more chance?—may be answered by this resurrection. They are certainly given the autonomy to be deceived by Satan one last time, and though their decisions have been sealed previously, they are now made evident by the attack on the Holy City, that is, the “camp of the saints.” This language suggests the city and the people are the same.
The great white throne judgment in this chapter judges those not found in the book of life by their works. This is a fearful judgment, because unlike the righteous whose lives are hid in Christ and He stands in their place in the judgment, the wicked have no such advocate. They have only their own works to recommend or convict them. The sad conclusion is inevitable.
How important is it to make Christ’s righteousness and His declaration of ours through faith our daily confession and action? How does it feel to know that Christ has offered you His perfect life and death, that by believing/trusting in what He has done for me, I need not fear judgment?
The last two chapters of Revelation allow our imaginations to run wild. No more pain, nor more sorrow, no more death. No separation between God and His followers. The plan of salvation is concluded, and there is no need for a temple any longer because there is no more sin. Exodus 25:8 is fulfilled—let them build me a sanctuary that I might dwell among them. God and His people are one.
The holy city is a materialistic “prize” for some Christians. But the language suggests we take the city symbolically as well. It is shaped like cube—the same shape as the most holy place in Solomon’s temple, and 12,000 stadia on a side, reminiscent of the 144,000 only larger (12,000 x 12,000=144,000,000 square stadia). The foundation of the apostle’s names recalls the “living temple” of the church with Christ as the chief cornerstone. The “adornment” of precious stones and gold is her beauty for her groom.
The city has a river running through the center and a tree growing there, much like Babylon (Euphrates river and the hanging gardens in the center) suggesting that this is the REAL city of which ancient Babylon attempted to be a sad, earthly copy or counterfeit. But this time, the city will last forever. Inside the city is the Tree of Life, recalling Eden, and the river flowing from the very throne of God recaptures Jesus’ promise to the woman at the well, and the Israelite visitors to Jerusalem on the feast of Tabernacles (Dedication) in John 10.
Will you be disappointed if you find out that the New Jerusalem is a symbol of God’s church? Do you wish for a golden mansion, or is living in intimate proximity to our Savior enough?
Revelation closes with a three-fold call: “behold I am coming soon.” The book began with these words in 1:8 and now concludes the same way. Adventists of all types have been awaiting Jesus’ return ever since He came the first time, and ascended after His resurrection. But perhaps this is why Revelation was given; God longs to be with us even more than we long to see Him, and He wants us to know what He’s doing in the meantime.
Maranatha—come Lord Jesus!