Commentary on Revelation 21:10, 22—22:5
The authority, inclusivity, and love of God are fully expressed in Revelation 21, where John is given a vision of a God whose compassion is for all people. God’s New Jerusalem is not demarcated by exclusive boundaries, but it is one in which God himself will be the dwelling place. In many ways, the vision of John in Revelation 21 is a reinterpretation of Ezekiel 37: 27. The prophet Ezekiel informs believers that God is not an exclusive parent, but he welcomes all nationalities, peoples, and ethnicities into the New Jerusalem. The Word of God in the Bible is simply about love.
However, Revelation and its message as well as its theological message remain opaque to the 21st century global Church. Wars, individualism, hate, poverty, and pandemics have all robed people of faith and belief in the God of Revelation. Tragically, God’s communicative force and his voice have been lost in probably every sector of life. It is imperative that 21st-century clergy and lay leaders in all denominations should always preach and teach from the Book of Revelation. When hope is lost in the world, the Church and all believers should be the living stream of flesh, hope, and encouragement. Sermons that teach God’s everlasting love, mercy, and grace should form the cornerstone of ecclesial life and theological curriculum.
Amid 21st-century wars and the ongoing pandemic from COVID–19 and its variants, as well as living with the pain of HIV/AIDS, messages of spiritual revitalization should be central to all that is done in the Church. God’s mission, evangelization of the world, and Gospel proclamation should always include hope. Human ears, hearts, and minds have lost the art of hearing, sensing, and discerning God’s presence in the world. The love of God and presence may seem lost in affluent and politically charged nations of North America and Europe, yet in the Global South, claims of God’s spirit, voice and power are at the center of people’s lives. While worship of God in affluent nations has slid into a political and ritualized practice, in developing parts of the world, genuine worship is given priority. Hence, Revelation 21:10–22 provides believers with a vision of a God whose purposes are to redeem the world.
While death comes to all people, Revelation’s message is that real life is never destroyed by dying, instead, those who die with faith in their hearts will surely be with God (verses 4-10). They have a promised future in God’s Kingdom, which is referred to as the New Jerusalem in Revelation, in which God will be the light and the dwelling place (Revelation 21:22). This belief in God of Revelation is perhaps lost in people’s hearts mainly because of the troubles and wounds of life. Teaching people, especially the ones who are going through pain, to cling to the love of God, may draw them closer to the voice of God in Revelation 21–22.
As the book of Genesis, Revelation 21 is not just about God’s love, but the message encompasses and expresses God’s prevenient grace. This grace summons persons to be open to God’s gift of self-esteem and incarnate love. The orderliness of night and day, the changing seasons, physical laws, and biological rhythms reveal the presence of God in human lives. The variety of flora and fauna, of minerals and elements, of races, genders, and personalities shows an inquisitive thoroughness, blessing diversity. Believers and all persons need only to look through open, simple eyes to discover the beauties of God in nature and it is through nature’s life that God allows us to experience the first incarnation whose end comes to full blossom in Revelation’s unfolding divine drama.
The Holiness of God as revealed in John’s message to Churches of Asia Minor is also shared with all believers at every station in their faith journeys. God’s attributes of creation, orderliness, diversity, beauty, and humor are hallmarks of his holiness and love. It is holiness and love that summons readers of Revelation to a life of eternity with God, and the summoning is made visible in every human being. Hence, no human being is an accident, and all humanity is created in the image of God, bearing the marks of God’s personality and mind. As such, the beloved city, described by John as the “bridal city,” is the eternal home of all human souls. So, the creature, no less than the Creator, is burdened and blessed with the ability to choose, freely and without prejudice beyond the subjective individual givens, a spiritual destiny.
In light of Revelation 21–22, Easter is incomplete with the message of Revelation because the purpose of Christ’s death and Resurrection is to assure believers of their eternal life with God. Secondly, Easter with all its messages is about reminding people of their being loved by God. Blessed are those who recognize God’s love displayed in prevenient grace, and also in the death, resurrection, and second, coming of Jesus Christ.
While the church defines itself based on insiders and outsiders, the message of Revelation is about the radical openness of God’s Kingdom whose eternal home has no gates. In this new and eternal habitat, God’s beloved people will no longer be ordinary human beings, but they will be “the redeemed priest of God,” living with love and concern for each other. Because of God’s love and redemption through the blood and faith of Jesus Christ, Christians are called to stand boldly before the throne of grace, knowing that God looks upon them not as lost and wretched. Instead, God sees his redeemed through the cross of his only Son, Jesus Christ. The truth of it all is that God sees genuine Christians through the prism of the Cross. Because of that symbol of the cross, people of all ages should seek and know communion with God and be reunited with the Creator.
When life seems to be dim, and the love of God distant, the realization of the events of the Cross will reorient believers to what matters in their spiritual and faith journeys. The exhortation of Revelation 22:1-5, that God is the source of life and that God never abandons us, is as true in the realm of revelation as it is in the area of life tribulations, trials and hardships. Hence, what one believes as a child to be true about God is still true in adulthood. Not only is it true, but as one matures, God increasingly becomes more revealing. As one tests abilities and reaches out into uncharted areas of life, God constantly influences one’s actions but dynamically reveals more and more truth and grace. While God remains unyieldingly objective about what is logos truth, God is tenderly subjective about what is rhema truth. Logos is a universal truth; rhema implies an individualized message oriented to a unique situation. As believers experience God in life situations, in the New Jerusalem, believers will eventually see God’s face (22:4).1
The more directly a person relies on God to guide decision–making, the more effectively that life will be lived, and in the end that life will live and reign with God forever and ever (22:5). This in turn will indeed create great satisfaction and bring one into a closer and eternal life with God, the saints, and all angels of Heaven. The more self-accepting one is, the more one accepts others. Yes, God’s love begets self-love which begets a lovingly lived Christian and humane life.
- For more information on practical and faith formation in Christian lives, see Tokunboh Adeyemo, ed., Africa Bible Commentary: A One Volume Commentary. Nairobi: Kenya, 2006.
May 22, 2022