I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
Revelation 21:1-4 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The New Heaven and the New Earth
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. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home[a] of God is among mortals.
He will dwell[b] with them;
they will be his peoples,[c]
and God himself will be with them;[d]
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Revelation is and has been for centuries a troubling and difficult book for people to understand. It is shrouded in mystery and with its often-bizarre imagery it is well-suited for creativity and imagination to run wild—even at the expense of historical accuracy and theological integrity. People think such things as the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, the rapture, the Antichrist, the Antichrist making a covenant with Israel, the Antichrist breaking the covenant with Israel, and Jesus setting up an earthly throne in Jerusalem are all in the book of Revelation. The fact is that NONE of those things appear in Revelation.
So what is the central message of Revelation that is woven in the sometimes brightly-colored and sometimes dark tapestry of Revelation? In a word, it is HOPE. Revelation was written during a time of persecution of Christians by Rome. In fact the writer, a Christian named John, was himself in exile on the Isle of Patmos because of his faith. The Roman Empire seemed all-powerful. What hope did Christians have in the face of such power? In Revelation there is persecution, terrible trials and heartache for people of faith. They are not taken out of it, but instead Jesus Christ comes to them to comfort and make new and to heal the nations. Once again in Revelation—as in the gospels—Jesus is shown to be the very presence of God with us in our pain. The triumph in Revelation is evil being vanquished, the Roman empire coming to an end and of the ultimate triumph of good over evil, of life over death.
The message of Revelation is that history IS going somewhere. The great question that is raised in Revelation is what’s next? When this life is over, then what? When this world is over, what’s at the end? When all who we know and love have passed from the scene, where are they? When all that we know of our world has ended in a brilliant explosion or has spun down to cold darkness, what then? What does the future hold?
In the movie Titanic as the huge ship is sinking, various people choose to face death. The musicians are bravely playing their music and—knowing they will soon die—are enjoying the gift of music together for the last time in this life. They play a hymn of faith, “Nearer My God to Thee.” One of the wealthy men and his son (I think it might have been the Astors) call for chairs and with great dignity and solemnity, sit and wait to be swallowed by the sea. A husband and wife and a mother and her children, huddle together in their beds waiting for the end, holding one another in loving embrace. Others panic and run screaming to and fro. Others shove and push and fight. Still others give up their own life jackets and places on the boats that others might live. A pastor clings to the ship as it begins to sink and reads to a small group of faithful the words of today’s scripture reading—words that give hope. There are tears now, but God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…”
That is the good news of our faith.
This is not a sentimental wish or whistling in the dark to give a sense that everything is okay. The troubles we face are real. The pain of life is real. John’s words are not head-in-the-sand optimism that refuses to face the seriousness of sin and evil and illness. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
There is a lot of theology woven in to hymns. To enhance today’s reading, I recommend listening to “Hymn of Promise” Natalie Sleeth (1986). I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul. Listen to this hymn on SoundCloud.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster