How should the truths of Revelation 21-22 shape us? Remember, the only reason God reveals anything about Himself (which includes the future) is so that we conform to it. However, while reading the last two chapters of the final book of the Bible, it is understandable why it is often ignored. Yet we must not make the mistake of continuing to ignore Revelation (or abusing it) - the stakes are too high.
Let's take verse one of chapter 21, Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. This verse is easy to quickly read over with hopes of getting to the "good stuff". Yet in a sense the best stuff (at least the foundation for it) is contained right here.
The easiest, and perhaps most striking image is that of the sea being no more. While water lovers among us may bemoan this concept, we need to understand what is being communicated. In the Jewish mind the sea was the stock image for evil and chaos - it is the abyss. This can be seen in Daniel 7 where four evil beasts (four kingdoms) arise out of the sea. Likewise, in Revelation 13, one of the beasts emerges from the sea. So when a Jew (and early Christian) heard sea they did not think beach and relaxation...rather they thought evil and chaos. Therefore when John said "the sea was no more," he means all evil is gone. Can you imagine that, a future devoid of evil? And please, do not think "evil people". Rather, think evil - as in the sinful thoughts and desires that wreak havoc on your own soul. Won't it be amazing (truly liberating) for those to be gone?!? A future without "evil" - how hopeful!
John also saw a new heaven and new earth. This needs more explanation, but for now think of an old beat up car that has been restored to vintage (and maybe even better than) quality. That is this word for new. It is not "new out of nothing" new...but new in the sense of taking what exists and refining/purifying it. It is a lot like what God does with us (cf. 2Cor5:17).
So let's stop here for now. A future where both "heaven" and "earth" are refined and made new...and a part of this means no more evil is present. One of the many things this does is give us hope.
We do ourselves a tremendous disservice when we do not focus on this hope more. Somehow Satan has duped us into thinking heaven is escapist thinking and is of no help to daily life. How many of you have ever felt a bit uneasy (or "churchy" or "religious") about saying to someone who is suffering that "One day...all of this stuff will be gone when Jesus comes back and everything is made new." Granted, we should not make the mistake of offhandedly dismissing the pain and suffering of anyone. Yet neither should we make the mistake of failing to bring hope into the picture. What is the other alternative? A future without hope looks something like, "Well, I know it is bad now...but you know what...that's just the way it goes...it's rough for some but not for others...the luck of the draw I guess..." Yeah, that isn't much help. In fact, that is more rude and calloused than bringing in the truth of the new heaven and new earth.
In light of that, why not say something similar to, "I don't know why this has happened to you (your loved one, etc.)...but rest assured a day is coming when Jesus will return...this world will be refined...all who are faithful to God will be able to live in a new heaven and new earth...nothing evil will ever happen again...we will live in relationships of harmony and mutual love (but that is going into a future post)..."
In summary, what would you do if you reminded yourself that this world is temporary and something much better is in store for us? Remember, this does not ignore pain, suffering, evil, or anything like that. Rather, it gives us a way to face it square in the face and with confidence say "You will not have the last word...my God is going to make everything new!!"
Praise God for that!
What else would you do if...?