Revelation 21-22

Good morning! Welcome to the final entry of Daily Bible for this year!

It’s hard to find words for all that this effort has meant to me this past year, and to the whole group that has the courage to grapple with these texts every day. Sometimes it has felt like Jacob wrestling with an angel in the middle of the night and refusing to let go until he gets a blessing, or like the widow in Jesus’ parable who dogs the unjust judge until she finally gets the justice she deserves. We have not agreed with everything in the Bible (and rightly so), but have covenanted to explore it with one another in the belief that there is still light and truth to be discovered in—or against—these pages. The books, chapters and verses we’ve read together have also been “reading” us, shaping us into a living Testament of wisdom, community and humanity. Such an experience is not undone just because we have reached the end of the book. Our lives are imprinted on one another with all the permanence of ink and page. Your companionship and commitment throughout the past year has been essential to the “chemistry” of this effort. No matter how great or small your ability to participate, how thoroughly you’ve read each verse or sentence of commentary, or how befuddled you have felt at times, your intentions have led to this current sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and connection. I’m especially grateful to all who engaged this community conversation throughout the past twelve months, especially Kay, Mark, Cheryl, Denise, Priscilla, Daniel, Karen, Laura, and so many more. Your insights multiplied my contributions a dozen-fold—thank you! Most especially, I also thank Javen, who knew even less than I at the outset what this effort would cost in terms of time writing in the evenings and weekends throughout the last year. I’m grateful for his patience, and look forward to much more time together in the weeks ahead!

But enough editorial comment—there is text to consider! Today in Revelation 21-22, we read what comes at the end of all things. In these last two chapters of the Bible, some is surprisingly like (and some quite unlike) the opening vision of God in the garden with Adam and Eve from Genesis 2. The new heaven and new earth come down as a bride prepared for her husband, pure at last, and God’s home will be among mortals. The holy dwelling and “new Jerusalem” is not in a garden this time though; it is in a great and perfect cube 1500 miles square, made of jasper, cornelian and other jewels. Light would be redundant in this city, as would a temple, because God’s presence illumines and sanctifies everything. These “urban” details have little to do with the original creation story, but they tell us how God’s salvation manifests everywhere in the final time of heavenly existence.

Several details, though, link more directly with the tree in the midst of the creation garden in Genesis 2. The river of the water of life in the middle of the city connects all the people with their God, providing nourishment to all God’s people just as the river in the midst of Eden waters and nourishes all living things. We also see a tree of life, this time one heavy-laden with fruit for the healing of the nations. God’s name and presence are throughout the city, just as God walked in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. These details assure that although the desire for clear knowledge was a stumbling block in Eden, it will not be so in this final garden. Furthermore, we read the promise that Jesus is “coming soon”, and in the meantime blessings abound for all who hold to the path of righteousness. In 22:17, a universal invitation goes out, saying, “Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.”

Mindful of these connections to Eden, I imagine that the pages of the Bible could be curled back on themselves, forming a tube rather than only a book, and connecting Revelation with the beginning of Genesis again. From the first book to the last, and everywhere in between, God’s presence might help to illumine shadowed places and make a new way possible when sin corrupts the good Garden, until that day when it is nowhere to be found at all. Happy reading!

Read Revelation 21-22.

There is no passage for tomorrow—we’ve finished reading the Bible this year! Thank you for your commitment and dedication to this goal!

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