18 From Genesis to Revelation

The new creation

The language of Genesis is used in the concluding chapters of Revelation to teach important spiritual truths.

John witnesses a new creation. He sees a new heaven and a new earth (21:1). From 2 Peter 3 we learn that this is the third heaven and earth. The first was destroyed by water; the second will be destroyed by fire. "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13).

The expression "new heavens and a new earth" must not be taken too literally. In 2 Peter 3 there is an interesting blend of literal and figurative language. The water to which Peter refers was literal enough. It destroyed civilisation and nearly every human being, but the planet remained. So too with the fiery destruction to come: the fire is probably literal. The earth which held vast reservoirs of water for the destruction of the antediluvian world has also great reserves of volcanic fire; and man may also make his own contribution to his fiery destruction by using the bombs he is now producing. The destruction will be immense and civilisation as we know it will be destroyed, but the planet — the earth — will remain.

The Scriptures contain resounding assurances that this planet will not be destroyed. Numbers 14:21 is one of several passages where God declares that the whole earth will be filled with His glory; and the prophet Isaiah declares:

"For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else" (Isaiah 45:18).

No more sea

In the new creation that John witnesses, there is no sea. Although it would probably be unreasonable to expect a literal fulfilment of this prediction, the prophecy is based on literal, cosmological, creative activity. When the earth was without form and void, the

whole surface was covered with water. In the Genesis creation, dry land emerged from the water, and thereafter the surface of the earth had a variegated pattern of sea and land. The ultimate, expressed in Revelation 21:1, is that all the sea disappears and the surface of the earth consists entirely of dry land.

The Scriptures themselves provide us with a key to the interpretation of this symbolical prophecy. Sea represents unregenerate nations — "But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt" (Isaiah 57:20). At one time all nations were unregenerate and, in the strict sense, irresponsible. The emergence of dry land means that some of the people of the world are brought into a special relationship with God. The complete disappearance of the sea is an appropriate symbol for a world in which all nations are brought under divine law and are answerable to God — in other words, the coming kingdom of God.

No need of the sun

Another great development is expressed in the elemental language of creation. Speaking of the great city, the new Jerusalem, John says:

"And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it . . ." (Revelation 21:23,24). These words are an echo of Isaiah 60 where the Lord is spoken of in language normally applied to the sun:

"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee" (verses 1, 2). "Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended" (verse 20). There is a fine balance between Genesis and Revelation. Ingenious explanations have been offered for the fact that the first fiat of Genesis 1, "Let there be light", came on the first day of creation, whereas the sun, moon and stars came on the fourth day — light before the sun! Surely the explanation must be that the first light to make an impact on the earth was the light of the glory of God. Essential though the light of the sun is to our mortal life, it has been put there by God to fulfil, for as long as God sees fit, the

purpose that the Almighty Himself can fulfil to perfection. For this reason the sun is sometimes used in Scripture to symbolise those rulers who are there by divine appointment to rule as long as God permits. An eclipse of the sun is a fitting metaphor for the extinction of a political power that has had 'absolute' authority under God.

See then how the splendour of the great, primeval act of creation is fulfilled when the unsullied glory of God shines forth, giving light and life to those whom He has created for Himself.

The perfect marriage

The full potential of marriage was not realised when Adam married Eve. Nor has it been ever since. The secret of the success of the ultimate marriage is preparation — "his wife hath made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7); "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (21:2).

The community that is called the bride of Christ is also called a city — "the holy city, new Jerusalem". It will be remembered that the harlot of Revelation is also a city — called Babylon. The contrast between the two communities confirms the conclusion that the harlot, Babylon, represents a counterfeit-Christian community. The contrast can be expressed more clearly by tabulation:

The bride

The harlot

1 . A city — New Jerusalem

A city — Babylon

2. Long and careful preparation

A wanton career of fornication

3. Comes down from heaven

Sits on a hybrid beast

4. Clothed in white linen

Clothed in purple and scarlet

5. "Glorious within" (Psalm 45:13) — symbolised by a city with precious stones as foundations

Embellished with gaudy trappings

6. Sits on an earth in which there is no more sea

Sits on many waters

7. Invites people to drink of the water of life (Revelation 22:17)

Invites people to drink of wine of fornication (Revelation 18: 3); and is a destroyer of life, drunken with the blood of saints and martyrs (17:6)

8. Made immortal

Destroyed by the beast and the ten kings

Eden restored

The last point invites further thought. Not only is there a contrast between Babylon and the holy city: there is also a contrast between the first and last Eden. Especially important is the fact that the lying 'serpent' element is excluded from the future Eden: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (21:8). "And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life" (21:27). "For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" (22:15).

The inference is that one reason for the failure of our first parents was because the serpent was not excluded from the garden. Abundant confirmation is provided in Romans 16:17-20:

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly."

In comparisons and contrasts there are about half a dozen allusions in this passage to the events of Eden. An exhortation to reject false teachers is full of references to Eden. The implications are clear: the serpent should have been excluded; the bride should have been prepared by careful instruction. Both these failures are carefully avoided in Eden restored, as it is described in the last two chapters of Revelation.

"No place for repentance"

The words, "I come quickly", occur no less than three times in Revelation 22. The chapter is charged with a sense of urgency.

9. Excludes anything that defiles, works abomination or makes a lie.

A hold of foul spirits and a cage of unclean and hateful birds (18: 2).

With the abruptness of the fall of a guillotine, our period of probation will end, and there will be no further opportunity to repent: "And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (22:10-12).

"The Spirit and the bride say, Come"

Such time as is left to us is a gift from God. As Peter says, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). All the time, the Spirit is saying: "Come!" (22:17).

Those who hear the call of the Spirit, and who respond, will feel moved to extend the invitation to others. Thus "the Spirit and the bride say, Come".

A fair test of our discipleship this. Are we preachers of the Word of Life? Do we echo the invitation of the Spirit and call people to repentance while the Lord remains away?

The ultimate test

There is another test — the ultimate test.

To the Lord's final assurance, "Surely I come quickly", John responds: "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."

Is this our response? Do we love his appearing? If we do, then the Lord, the Righteous Judge, will give us a crown of righteousness on that glad day.

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."

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