Revelation 21 : 1 - 5 ( NRSV )

Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.1(1) I saw the holy city and the new Jerusalem,2 coming down from God out of heaven, beautiful as a bride and groom on their wedding day.(2) Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, "You see this city? Here God lives among humankind. God will dwell with them as their God. They will be God's people, and God will be with them;(3) God will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone."(4) Then the One3 sitting on the throne spoke: "Now I am making the whole of creation new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."(5)

COMMENT

     The passage from the final part of the Book of Revelation is dedicated to describing the new ordering which takes the place of the old ordering that has come to an end. The positive effect produced by the death of Jesus is the restoration of the interrupted relationship between God and humankind that gives access to divine life.
     Until now the Seer has been stressing the effects of the judgement of God upon the world. The basic positive effect which the death of Christ has produced, is the restoration of the interrupted relationship between God and humankind giving back to people the possibility of access to divine life. This is "good news" which Jesus came to bring. The proclamation of this reality in the early Christian community produced the Christian scriptures.
     The Seer believed the person and work of Jesus was the fulfillment of all that had been announced in the Hebrew prophetic tradition. One of the main features of that tradition, especially after the Babylonian exile was the return and the restoration of Jerusalem and its Temple. The author presents Jesus as the promised and expected Messiah - and saw the restoration of Jerusalem as the climax of messianic expectations.
     There is a line of continuity between the new reality and the old. The Seer's new heaven and the new earth are reminiscent of Isaiah 65:17-19 and 66:22. Jerusalem began with good intentions but lost the way by forgetting the mandate it had to care for the powerless - and is punished (Is.1:24-26). In the end after the hurt and after the city is plowed as a field, it will become a place of humaneness - caring for widows and orphans (Is.1:26-27). The city will be what it was initially summoned by YWHA to be. When the social arrangements are transformed the land will be healed and its people with it (Is.65:17-25).
     The prophet Isaiah has God promise a new Jerusalem. The poem describes the new city. It has a new economics! No one will plant and someone else eat the produce. There will be a new medical policy! There will be no more infant mortality. There will be a new covenental religion! God will answer before the people call. In this new city there will be no more cries of distress, no more abandonment, no more terror. There will be well-being in the city - for it is promised (Is.65:19-22). The prophetic vision of Isaiah is taken up by the Seer. The heavenly chorus shouts: "The reign of the world has become the reigning of our Lord and his Christ; he will reign for ever and ever!" (Rv.11:15 NJB)
     The new creation of heaven and earth corresponds to the story in Genesis as a preliminary to the creation of humankind (Gn.1.1ff). Here too the new creation is only a first moment in the divine intervention which creates the whole of reality, "Look, I am making the whole of creation new" (v.5) serves the new creation of humankind (vv.6-7). The new creation is the completion of the first creation. The restored city becomes the place where God dwells. The ancient covenant of mutual presence between God and God's people, is fulfilled and forever assured as a covenant of peace and happiness. God orders the author to write the vision to encourage those whose lives are still enmeshed in history's struggle.
 
footnote:
[ Revelation 21:1 - 22:5 ] A description of God's eternal reigning in heaven under the symbols of a new heaven and a new earth; cf Is.65:17-25; 66:22; Mt.19:28.
1. [ v.1 ] no longer any sea: Because as home of the dragon it was doomed to disappear; cf Jb.7:12.
2. [ v.2 ] New Jerusalem . . . bride: Symbol of the church (Ga.4:26).
3. [ v.5 ] The One . . .on the throne: God cf Rv.4:1-11.
 

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