Jesus says, “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.” We see the sixth beatitude as another beautiful promise but there is some urgency. Have you heard of FOMO? That’s the fear of missing out. It’s commonly used in marketing to let you know something is coming to an end (like a sale) so you better hurry or you’ll get left behind. That’s a bit of what I feel is happening here. Jesus doesn’t want us to wait to obey, he wants us to do it now! None of us know what “soon” means.
We’ve been reading through the book of Revelation and it concludes with this passage. Whether it’s your first time through or your hundredth, the message is still the same. Follow Jesus, be encouraged in your faith, and trust he is coming soon. Revelation is prophecy, and we explored what that meant at the very beginning. Prophecy can have to do with the future, but it is not the same as a “prediction.” The intention is to always point us toward God, not away from him. As you look back at what you’ve read, I am confident you can see the prophetic nature of this book. It is drawing us back to God, strengthening our desire to be in relationship with our Savior King.
Does this sound wonderful? “A river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Most of the rivers we encounter these days are murky and often times smelly. The water of life, referring to eternal life is perpetually flowing without fear of pollution or running dry. Jesus referred to this “water of life” when he was speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well. Remember his words, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
We do know who is preparing this for us. We know the source of this living water. It is flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb. We will be forever nourished by the water and the fruit of the tree of life. It’s like the circle has completed itself. The tree of life was in the garden when Adam and Eve fell into temptation. They and their ancestors were banned from the blessings of this tree because of the curse of evil. In the end, evil has been demolished and all will be restored to what was originally intended.
We have probably all heard a joke or two about the “pearly gates” of heaven. You might even remember how St. Peter is said to be standing there as the gatekeeper. Now you know where this picture comes from and how totally off base the description truly is. There are actually twelve gates, not one, and all of the apostles have a place in the foundation, not just Peter. But at least people are talking about heaven, even if only in “jest.”
God is preparing a beautiful place for us. The magnificence defies description. While the dimensions were meant to be symbolic, they are given in great detail. What we do see may have been lost in the translation. Each measurement represents a multiple of 12. You will recall that in the Bible the number 12 represents God’s people. First there are the 12 tribes, then the 12 apostles of the Lamb. The Holy City of God beautifully represents the people who have stayed true. There are even 12 precious gems adorning the city. It is a magnificent place for God’s people to dwell, and the size will be just perfect.
I don’t want to rush past the beautiful conclusion to the last book of the Bible. The promises of these few verses are immense. God has an amazing future planned for us. In these opening verses we read that our new community, the New Jerusalem, will be “like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” We have all been wow-ed by a bride on her wedding day as she cascades down the aisle to her groom waiting at the altar. So much preparation has gone in to that moment.
So, too, God is preparing for the moment of his great reveal. He is waiting for the perfect time for all those he has loved so much from a distance to finally be brought into his presence. There is no way to truly express the beauty of this elaborate moment when God’s extravagant love for us is fully revealed. We just don’t have the words to fully describe the majesty. It is the precious moment when the time comes for “God himself will be with them.” With us. Don’t rush past this image. God himself! With us!
That’s quite a headline! Satan’s Defeat! Hallelujah! Amen! We can all rejoice and be glad. But there are some challenging parts to today’s reading we should not overlook. First of all, Satan is set free from his 1000 year captivity (or however long this represents). There was no prison reform for Satan. In fact, if I were to guess, he came out stronger, angrier, and craftier than ever.
After all of that, we have these words of comfort. “Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Such a fate, it couldn’t have happened to a “nicer” bunch! Forever banished. It makes you wonder why there was the 1000-year imprisonment in the first place. Again, time and space is not literal. God had his reasons.