One of the most incredible passages of Scripture, and one to which I return often, is Revelation 21. It is the story of the consummation of redemption history, of the bride of Christ descending from heaven – walking down the aisle, as it were – for her marriage to the “Lamb who was slain.” The imagery is rich and profound, bursting with anticipation of the new creation, of the world made right, and of the end of the tyrannical reign of sin and death.

In verse 6, the unseen God shouts from his glorious throne, “Behold! I am making all things new!” A proclamation. A promise. God is making all things new. The mountains and rivers will be made new. Not different mountains and rivers; the same, but renewed. Purified. Cleansed.

The same is true for us. There will not be different people; there will be the same people, but we will be renewed, purified, cleansed, redeemed, comforted. This is what awaits us in Christ. But you don’t have to wait for it to happen all at once in heaven. This is what God is up to right now. God is making a new you, and he is doing it through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit today.

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Since our son Ezekiel passed away two and a half months ago, Breena and I have been often asked: How are you doing? The truth is, we’re doing well. This fact can be difficult for some to understand. After all, our 4 1/2 year old son died of a terrible disease that slowly destroyed his brain and his body for more than two years. How could we possibly be doing well after experiencing something like that?

IMG_0158The only answer we have to that question is that we’ve found a hope that transcends death. We’re doing well because we have hope that there is something, or someone, who is greater than death. This hope, which has buried itself deep within our hearts over the past two years, is rooted in Jesus and his resurrection from the dead. We believe that Jesus conquered death once and for all; not that he has yet eradicated it and our bodies will never die, but that he has risen again from the dead, thereby destroying the power of death. If Jesus rose again, then death isn’t final, at least not for those who follow Jesus.

Nothing else on earth offers this kind of hope. No other religion or ideology offers the kind of hope that Christianity does through the resurrection of Jesus. The cross and resurrection, the “true message of the Gospel,” gives humanity a hope that no other way of life can – a hope that strips death of its power to make us afraid and replaces it with a vision of an unimaginably glorious and good life beyond death. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15,

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The Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard BauckhamThere are many different interpretive models for the book of Revelation. Some approach it as though it were a code to be deciphered, matching ancient images with present figures in an attempt to unlock the secrets of the last days. Others see it as a uniquely Christian history with little or nothing to say to believers today. As we seek to understand this fascinating and oftentimes befuddling book, perhaps we should interpret it in basically the same way we interpret every other book of the Bible. That is to say, maybe the key to unlocking Revelation’s secrets is to simply ask, “What did this mean to the people to whom it was originally written?”

In his book The Theology of the Book of Revelation, Richard Bauckham takes this basic exegetical approach, and manages to make sense of, and draw compelling meaning from, John’s Apocalypse. Bauckham starts where most Christian exegetes start with any other biblical book by asking, “What sort of book is this?” The answer, he discerns, is that “Revelation seems to be an apocalyptic prophecy in the form of a circular letter to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia.” (2)

John’s work is a prophetic apocalypse in that it communicates a disclosure of a transcendent perspective on this world. It is prophetic in the way it addresses a concrete historical situation – that of Christians in the Roman province of Asia towards the end of the first century AD – and brings to its readers a prophetic word of God, enabling them to discern the divine purpose in their situation and respond to their situation in a way appropriate to this purpose.
In other words, the book of Revelation is John’s attempt to speak into the lives of real Christians in a real place by giving them a heavenly perspective on their temporal challenges. “Life looks overwhelming from your perspective,” he says, in essence, “but I want to show you your life and your circumstances from God’s perspective.” Revelation is, at heart, a pastoral work. It is a call to abandon the idols of the Roman Empire and the futility of its warmongering ways, and to instead worship the true God and lay hold of the victory of the “lamb who was slain.”

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I didn’t prepare what I was going to say ahead of time, which is unusual for me. All I knew was that I wanted to read from Revelation 21. My hope is that these words honored both Jesus and Zeke.

We held out for healing. We prayed for it. We laid our hands on his head. We called out for God’s kingdom to come on earth, in Zeke, as it is in heaven. But the healing we wanted never came, and finally, after far too long, Zeke took his last breath at 3:00 this morning, passing from life to death, and on into eternal life.

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

Zeke is with Jesus. I’m jealous of them both.

I’m jealous of Zeke because he gets to rest from all of his trials. He gets to see what I can only hope for. He gets to know Jesus face-to-face. He is made whole, today, in the presence of his Savior and Creator.

I’m jealous of Jesus because he gets to talk to Zeke. Because of this disease, I was never able to have a real conversation with him. He could only respond nonverbally because the speech function in his brain was not allowed to develop. But now that he’s made whole, the first person he ever gets to converse with is Jesus. So I’m jealous.

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

Our hope is built upon the resurrection of Jesus. We don’t imagine that Zeke is whole or that we will see him again because we are looking for ways to comfort ourselves. Rather, we comfort ourselves in the historical fact of Jesus’s resurrection and what that means about the future for all who believe in him.

Zeke’s bed is empty, and I feel that same emptiness in my heart. All of the pillows and blankets that protected his flailing feet and arms from hitting the bedrails are still there, but his body is conspicuously absent. My heart is wrung dry. My stomach is churning.

For half of his life he suffered from the effects of seizures. Now, for eternity, his body is made new, never to seize again. I rejoice that his suffering is over. I lament that he is gone.


My sweet boy, the next time I see you we must have a long chat.

I love you.

I rejoice with you.

You are missed.

I will never forget you.

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