Thursday of the 4th Sunday in Advent – Revelation 22:1-9

| December 21, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Revelation 22:1-9

The Bible is the ultimate, the quintessential, comedic work of literature, in a classical sense.  While tragedy ends in the suffering and misery of Lear, Macbeth, and Hamlet, comedy ends with all’s well that ends well.  From Genesis 1 to Genesis 2, while Adam and Eve were still in the garden, you could say that comedy reigned, but from Genesis 3 until Malachi 4, the sad spectacle of the human tragedy reigned on earth and in the lives of men.

But thanks be to God for the revelation of Jesus Christ that breaks through in Matthew 1:1 like the sun after a thunderstorm!  From the time of Christ’s First Coming until the time of His Second Coming, life is a comedy for the Christian, but remains a tragedy for those who will now bow the knee before the King of kings.

The fact of this dramatic reversal, which was revealed in special glory to St. John in terms of the destruction of the Old Covenant and Old Heaven and Earth and the creation of the New Covenant and New Heaven and Earth, is clear in the last chapter of the entire Bible: Revelation 22.  Here in Revelation 22 we see man returned to the Garden, but this time not only the Garden of Eden but to Paradise and even more – to Heaven.

Man’s journey is a three-part one, with two dramatic reversals of his condition.  While we began life in the Garden, walking in the cool of the day with the Lord on earth, we quickly got kicked out of Edenand inherited Hell.  But in the most dramatic change of all, those whose names are written in the Book of Life and have their lives hidden in Christ Jesus have not only been restored to an earthly Eden but are now also inheritors of Heaven itself.

Notice how John’s description of heaven (and, one could say, life in God’s presence even on earth) is like the description in Genesis 2 of the Garden of Eden.  In Genesis 2, there were 4 rivers: in Revelation 22, there is only 1 river, but it is the River of the Water of Life which contains the Living Water that Jesus promised, the water which, if we drink of it, we shall never thirst or die again.  Unlike Genesis 2, where the rivers may seem to give life in and of themselves, Revelation 22 makes clear that the Giver of Life has always been God and only God, for the pure River of Water of Life proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

In Genesis 2, there is a mysterious Tree of Life that we hear little about because it is in the shadow of a more ominous tree.  In Revelation 22, we see the Tree of Life again, only this time the Tree of Life seems to have multiplied itself and its effect.  It is both in the middle of the street and on either side of the river, and verse 2 speaks of each tree, as if there were more than one.  Again, redeemed man’s condition is not only equal to Eden but far better.  Jesus, who died on the Tree of Life, the Cross, is the Tree of Life for us.  On this Tree of Life, in this Tree of Life, the curse put on man is removed, and we are healed and saved.

In Genesis 3, man is cursed because of his disobedience (sin), but in Revelation 22 there shall be no more curse (verse 3) but instead the throne of God and of the Lamb.  In the presence of God, having been made righteous by the Blood of the Lamb, His servants shall serve him, unlike Adam and every man since Adam.  Unlike the condition of man earlier, in heaven we shall see God’s face, in a way that even Moses could not.

In Genesis 2, man was made a king and given dominion over all the earth, but by Genesis 3 man had decided that he wanted to rule apart from God, and the rest is history.  Man was escorted out of the Garden and the Tree of Life, but he is escorted back in to the Tree of Life through the gates of the city, the Church in verse 14 of Revelation 22. Here, man is restored to his rightful throne, ruling with the Lord God forever.

In Genesis 1, the earth was lit by the sun and moon, and it was possible for man to think of them as natural phenomenon that had a light and life of their own.  But in Revelation 22 we see, once again, that it was only God all along who is both Light and Life and the Giver of Light and Life.

As glorious as heaven shall be, it was revealed to St. John that these unspeakably wonderful and glorious things were about to be fulfilled shortly, during his lifetime.  St. John makes this clear to all of his readers from the beginning, especially the seven 1st century churches to which he writes: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him so show His servants – things which must shortly take place” (Revelation 1:1).  “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it: for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).

Just in case we missed it or have forgotten in the last 21 chapters, John closes with the same clear marker of time: “These words are faithful and true.  And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must take shortly take place” (Revelation 22:6).  Jesus Himself affirms that He will come quickly, saying, “Behold I am coming quickly! (22:7).  Again, in Revelation 22:12, Jesus says, “And behold I am coming quickly” and yet again in 22:20, “Surely I am coming quickly.”  What part of “things which must shortly take place”, “the time is near”, and “I am coming quickly do” did the 1st century church misunderstand, and what part don’t we get of such a clear revelation?

Daniel was instructed to shut up the words and seal the book until the time of the end (12:4,9), but John is instructed by the angel who tell him: “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.”

There is no further revelation of Jesus Christ, in other words, and by the time of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, forty years after Jesus died, was resurrected, ascended into heaven, and poured out the Holy Spirit, the Old Covenant had died and the New had been born.

What is the consequence of all that has been revealed to us by Jesus Christ Himself, though St. John?  The implication is that the Lamb is on the throne right now and reigns over heaven and earth.  And if this is true, and it is, then we, being united with Jesus Christ, are (present tense) also seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 2:6) and have been blessed (past tense) with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).

The most blessed consequence of all of this is that once again we are enabled to worship God in Spirit and in Truth.  This is what Adam was created for, but he chose to worship the creation and himself and his wife, and we have been idolaters ever since . . . until Christ came and redeemed us and made us able to worship again by worshiping through Him.

Therefore, the angel commands John: “Worship God!” (22:9).

What better way to end the Revelation of Jesus Christ, to end the entirety of the Holy Scriptures, than with this simple command: “Worship God!”

Resolution:  I resolve to spend extra time today worshiping God, in response to His presence with me, which brings salvation and glory.

Prayer:  O Lord God, I pray that I might find your grace today to approach your throne of grace that I might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Blessing and glory and honor be unto you and the Lamb that sits on the Throne in heaven and to the Holy Spirit, for You have made your dwelling place with man and have opened the gates to heaven.  Lead me to the River of the Water of Life that I may freely drink, and bring me to the Tree of Life that I may eat and never die, through Him who is both the Living Water and the Tree of Life, Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Point for Meditation: 

  1. Meditate further on the story of mankind: the glory with which we were created, our loss of glory and being cast into darkness, and our salvation and return to God’s loving and glorious presence.  It may be fruitful to meditate on this theme with particular reference to the details of your life.
  2. What changes in attitude should accompany the revelation and knowledge that we are seated in the heavenlies with Jesus Christ and are citizens of heaven already? 
  3. What are some ways that you may find drink from the River of the Water of Life today and eat from the Tree of Life which is Jesus? 

© 2011 Fr. Charles Erlandson  

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