I struggle to comprehend what these verses are describing. Why? The reason is that while life is indeed a blessing and filled with so much grace, trying to comprehend life with no more crying or pain or death is difficult to really imagine. Now I mourn for those I’ve lost to death. Now I witness on the news broadcast the crying and pain brought by our inhumanity to each other, our refusal to recognize the image of God in each other. Yet as Revelation draws to a close an image is given of a wedding with the reign and presence of God united with us. The old ways will be no more. Instead, they will be replaced by the ways of a new heaven and new earth where the old ways will no longer be. Christ, the Lamb, is the light by which the nations will come and go. What will this life be like? What the brain can’t comprehend, faith holds on with hope for the promise of what is to be.
“…and there was no longer any sea.” The sea is often referenced to as a place of chaos. It stands in contradiction to the goodness and order of creation. The opening verses of Genesis tell of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters and God first called forth light and creation began with order, goodness and teeming with life. We, created in the image of God, are to care and tend for this amazing creation. The chaos of the sea works to oppose God’s creative goodness.
Whenever hate filled shouts or mockery is made against each other, then we deny God’s image. This is chaos.
We are reminded over and over of how we are changing the climate of the earth. A recent estimate is that one million species is at risk of extinction. Whenever we fail to care for creation, this too is chaos.
So often heaven is thought of as a place we go to but Revelation tells us that the abode of God comes to us. The result is that the ways of the old heaven and the old earth and the sea will be no more. The death and resurrection of Christ Jesus has begun a new creation. The final end will come in a new heaven and earth where the old ways of pain and crying and death will be no more. What a beautiful promise! The brain may not comprehend but what an amazing hope for faith to cling.
We need a break. Not the moment to relax and get through the stresses of another busy day but a break from Revelation. The previous chapter is a difficult read. The Lamb opens the seven seals. We read of God’s wrath. The four horsemen riding horses colored white, red, black and pale bring war, famine, plague and death. A vision of the slaughtered martyrs. An earthquake and the sun turning black and the moon blood red. The people of earth from the greatest to the least call on the mountains to fall on them rather than face the wrath of the Lamb. Then there is a break.
The 144000 (representing the church on earth) is sealed. Then we have this reading from Revelation of a multitude from every tribe and nation shouting praise to God and to the Lamb. They have passed through the great tribulation.
Revelation is a calling for the followers of Christ to be faithful and this will not be easy. Jesus stood before Pilate and declared that his Kingdom was not from here. Pilate showed what the kingdoms from here do and that is crucify. Jesus showed what his kingdom does which is very different and still causes ugly debate today.
Jesus fed the hungry. In this country, we throw away nearly 40% of our food but can’t find ways to feed the hungry.
Jesus reached out to the outcast. Bring up gay, lesbian, immigrant, etc. and be prepared for a tough discussion.
Jesus healed the sick. Want to talk about healthcare? The debate will go on and on and on.
Jesus said that his kingdom is not from here. He is so true. To follow Christ, is to walk down the path of a different kingdom. The result can be persecution ranging from mild to martyrdom. This is the tribulation. We return to the multitude before God and the Lamb in Revelation.
The multitude will be before God and his protection will cover over them. Christ, the Lamb, will be a shepherd leading them to living water. There will be no more hunger or thirst or beating sun. The hand of God will wipe away the tears from our eyes.
So we take a break from the judgments of the Lamb against the world. The next chapter will have the judgments resume. For the moment, there is a much needed break. The faithful in heaven and earth will be protected from the judgments. They come to the reign of God where the tears of the struggle will be no more.