Read Revelation 21:1–6.
How have you coped with the pandemic? What has it done to your relationship with God? Some people have drawn closer to God and found the strength to get through difficult times. But for some, who perhaps lost loved ones or who shuddered at the scale of the suffering worldwide, the pandemic raised questions.
How can a loving God allow such things to happen? It’s the age-old “problem of suffering”—at least as old as the Book of Job. The Bible has no single answer to it; instead, it gives us several different angles on it.
Then right at the end of the Bible, we find this message: “‘There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4). God is going to heal his creation of all that spoils and damages it.
People sometimes complain that there isn’t much evidence of God’s love in the Book of Revelation. Some might say the same of the pandemic. But can you imagine a more beautiful image of the love of God than this: God “will wipe every tear from their eyes” (v. 4)?
Revelation certainly does not stint in its portrayals of the horrors of history. But hope runs through it all and blossoms in this final vision that the prophet is given. God will make all things new. God has a new future for his whole creation.
When we think about the future, we most often think of where the past and the present will lead. But this is different. As only God can create, only God can renew his whole creation. It started with the resurrection of Jesus—one new thing that changes everything. In lives transformed by the Spirit of Christ, we have a foretaste of the new future.
That future itself goes far beyond what we can imagine. But John’s vision invites us to also raise our eyes to that high mountain (v. 10) where the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven. With his eyes we can look much farther than we normally can see.
At the heart of the new future is God: “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them” (v. 3). This has always been God’s purpose for his creation, and it is what will make all the difference.
Sharing John’s vision is not just pious daydreaming. It gives us hope to live by. We can start living toward what God promises, and that will make all the difference to our lives now.
Richard Bauckham is senior scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, and the author of many books, including Who Is God? and Theology of the Book of Revelation.
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