November 10, 2006

A New Heavens and a New Earth

The consensus seems to have moved to the Gospel According to Mark. So I will begin posting passages from that gospel in a more or less regular rate starting next week. I thought it sad somehow to leave off this book in the muddle of plagues and disasters, before the decisive battle, kind off like getting all the way to Frodo in Shelob's lair in LOTR and laying the books aside. So here, for weal or ill, is the Revelation 21:1-22:5.

Revelation 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. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and lying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.

And the one who was seated on the throne said, See, I am making all things new. Also he said, Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.

Then he said to me, It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.

And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The angel who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width; and he measured the city with his rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, one hundred forty-four cubits by human measurement, which the angel was using. The wall is built of jasper, while the city is pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass. I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day-- and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Revelation 22:1-5
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

6 Comments:

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Larry said...

Glorious stuff, David.

 
At 9:01 PM, Blogger crystal said...

This is the one part of Revelation I like :-) I just read an article about theodicy by David Hart that ends with a quote from here ...

.. the world remains divided between two kingdoms, where light and darkness, life and death, grow up together and await the harvest. In such a world, our portion is charity, and our sustenance is faith .... it is a faith that set us free from optimism long ago and taught us hope instead ... that God will not unite all of history's many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that he will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature, but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes .... and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away, and He that sits upon the throne will say, “Behold, I make all things new.”

 
At 9:13 AM, Blogger forrest said...

This too has it's moralistic elements; none of those "bad" folks will make it in; they're all going to get cooked. Not a bandwaggon I can be altogether happy to wag with-- unless I can see it in more in line with Ellul's take on the book.

Which take suggests that this part (like the rest) is not be not entirely about some future act of God, but about what God has already done by the act of sending Jesus, and the implicatons that are still working themselves out.

Which implications are not completed by a Democrat Pary victory in an election or two. Creation is still languishing in the same fetters we're in. We could well be within 100 years of the sort of extinction event that turns the whole atmosphere to the sort of sulfurous, oxygen-free glup that one finds written in the rocks from the time before life started. (A sobering Scientific American article on these extinctions appeared in their October issue, which finally came available for take-out at my library.)

No, I don't think we should be content with "Yay, the Good Guys won!" We haven't made the walk to this part yet. I'd like to take up that walk again later, in the light of whatever we first need to learn from Mark.

 
At 11:03 AM, Blogger david said...

Forrest is concerned about the implicit (okay, explicit) violence here. I think we can be concerned about this passage simply as it doesn't track on a literal level.

Jerusalem=12 Tribes=Christian Church=Bride of Christ=The Righteous Ones. Actually -- the groups are the Bride/City and the individuals within the group are the "children" -- which I think has interesting possibilities for political theology.

The unrighteous: cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire

And yet, of this Holy Jerusalem, it is said, the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day-- and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. So somebody who is not of the City, must be left to pay tribute to the City.

The trouble is, John of Patmos could conceive of nothing greater to describe the Reign of El Shaddai, than the image of World Empire as presented by the Roman Empire. And Rome left its subject peoples more or less intact (except maybe Carthage) -- and its subject Kings rendered taxes and tribute.

For this metaphor to track literally, somebody who is not in the elect must be left.

 
At 2:00 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Too many "="s in that interpretation!

This stuff was not written as a cypher for some banal theological tract; this is from a long, delirious dream of a poem about the fate and meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

As the novelist said: "If I could tell you, just like that, what my book means, I wouldn't have needed to write the book."

"The Elect" as a later Christian notion probably don't come into this. "The Church" is a group of Jews (those following the true Messiah) when this is written, and the goyim are expected to of course go on living in the less desirable neighborhoods like Rome and Egypt, only they will be behaving properly, bringing sacrifices to the true God rather than trying to make the Jews worship Caesar.

[By the way, this is an odd city, if we're being literal; roughly a four day nonstop drive around it if someone were to build a freeway for the purpose.]

I still dislike the notion that certain people have been so bad that God's gonna get them for it. Myself, I haven't been fornicating all that much lately; it isn't just that I'm getting old, but after all, I'm taken. If I weren't taken, the occasional hot date with a marginally nubile (but likeable) female would still seem a good thing. Anybody who wants to tell me that this is worse than eating pork has got a hard job ahead of him. So I could take it personal, this getting dumped in a lake of fire with a lot of bad company!

Can we just assume that there's no reason left, when this city comes down, for anyone to be carrying on in ways the author disapproves. There are no "sorcerers" to get burned if nobody's practicing sorcery anymore, nobody fornicating (sigh) if the spice with their spouse does the job, nothing fearful left to be cowardly about?

I don't think the author would be altogether happy with this formulation. But I like it.

 
At 5:39 PM, Blogger david said...

The "=" is because I don't have a more useful symbol. In logic we use three horizontal lines to indicate -- not equal but equivalent -- equal in value. The metaphors share common ground but are not equal -- otherwise multiple metaphors would not be needed.

Yet the metaphors speak of a realtionship between HaShem his people and individual members of that tribe.

 

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