My Favorite Verse

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If left to pick from all the verses of the Bible and I had to boil it all down to one verse I would pick Revelation 21:5,

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

That verse gives me so much hope. Not only has Christ died for us and will return someday to reconcile all things to himself but Jesus is currently in the process of making all things new. He is taking this broken world and molding it, shaping it and transforming it in his way and in his timing to be all that he has designed it to be. It is a reminder that the world is messed up but that it won’t always be this way. There will be a day when it will no longer be “being made” new but be “all the way new” and we can be certain that is the case for the very reason that His words are “trustworthy and true.” Praise God for that!

21 Responses

  1. I’m curious about how you connect your position on v.5 with what we see in v.6, where after “It is done” we still see thirsty people being invited to come and drink. It seems to me that this indicates that there isn’t absolute perfection so that things are “all the way new” in the sense that you are assuming:

    Rev 21:6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.
    Rev 21:7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
    Rev 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

  2. I re-read my post and I am not sure where you understood me to be saying Jesus has made things “all the way new.” Can you re-read it and help me see where you get that from? I am not saying that at all. I am saying it is “in process.” I hope that makes more sense!

    1. I understand that you are saying that the renewal is in process, so that it’s not a completed fact until some point in the future that I assume is associated with the moment when “It is done”. My point is that at this point in history there are still thirsty people being invited to drink. Similarly, the gates of the city are said to be perpetually open so that people can enter. This indicates that after “it is done” and “things are made all the way new” there is still sin and other imperfection that is being perpetually dealt with. At the end of the chapter we see this dynamic reiterated. Consider this: If after all things are new there are still people outside of the city, how does this inform the definition of “all the way new.”

      Rev 21:24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,
      Rev 21:25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.
      Rev 21:26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.
      Rev 21:27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

    2. As a part of it being finished is judgment as seen in 21:7-8,

      “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

      Sin is not ultimately perpetually dealt with.

    3. Who is it, after the beginning of the function of the New Jerusalem, who is being invited into the city perpetually?

    4. I’m having a hard time understanding where I’m being confusing. In your article you say you are happy that God’s making everything new is an ongoing process, that at some point it will be done, and at that point things will be “all the way new” so that there won’t be any defect of any kind left in creation. I’m pointing out that the language of the passage you are quoting from implies an ongoing function of renewal AFTER the climactic end, that the imagery of people being perpetually invited into the city is meant to convey this, and that there is no description of that invitation ending. I’m relying on Rev. 21:6-8, 24-27 for my point (though as Jerel pointed out the imagery of Isaiah 66, Zechariah 13-14, Ezekiel 47, and other passages is the basis for this and unanimously argues for continued evangelism and conversion AFTER the eschatological climax). I don’t see any grounds for saying that when things are “all the way new” this means that there is no more sin or evangelism of any kind. I’m challenging you to point me to some scripture that argues this.

    5. I don’t get the “perpetual entry” idea from anything in Revelation 21. I don’t see it in Ezekiel 13-14 either. In Rev 21, the gates are perpetually open but that doesn’t mean that perpetually new people are arriving daily for all eternity. Them being open is a symbol for the victory already being won. There is no more battle or fighting to be done…it truly is finished. If Ezekiel 47 is a parallel to Revelation 21 then I don’t see why the boundaries are drawn as they are. Isa 66 might be the most convincing. I will have to look at it some more.

    6. I assume that you see the function of the New Jerusalem in Rev. 21 as post parousia and during the function of the New Heaven and New Earth. If this is so, how can anyone enter at all? Forget for a moment that I’m asserting this function is perpetual. According to your paradigm there shouldn’t be any option of anyone at all entering after the beginning of the New Heaven and New Earth because there will be no more sin or separation from God of any kind in that era. Who, then, are those who are entering? How could there be anyone who is outside?

      If you say that the gates are open, that people are invited to enter, but that no one actually enters, or even can, this seems like a terribly cynical and disingenuous offer.

    7. Yes, post parousia…especially due to 21:1-5,

      Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

      “See, the home[a] of God is among mortals.
      He will dwell[b] with them;
      they will be his peoples,[c]
      and God himself will be with them;[d]
      4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
      Death will be no more;
      mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
      for the first things have passed away.”

      And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

      So this is a time when heaven is new…death is no more…God dwells with his people and there is no more mourning because the first things have passed away and now things are new.

      Let me address your points,

      “Forget for a moment that I’m asserting this function is perpetual. According to your paradigm there shouldn’t be any option of anyone at all entering after the beginning of the New Heaven and New Earth because there will be no more sin or separation from God of any kind in that era.”

      – I don’t agree that your conclusion follows my paradigm/interpretation of these verses. God dwells with his people. God has called us his own. I don’t see why there has to be an entering of new people once the new heavens and new earth are fulfilled and all these things have transpired. There will be no more sin or death because God judges those things and casts them in the lake of fire – Rev 19-20.

      “Who, then, are those who are entering? How could there be anyone who is outside?”

      Those who are entering are those who are living as a part of God’s dwelling with his people. Rev 22:15 tells us there are those who are not a part of this…they are not “inside” of God’s dwelling with his people but are “outside”…they are judged as depicted in the previous chapters.

      “If you say that the gates are open, that people are invited to enter, but that no one actually enters, or even can, this seems like a terribly cynical and disingenuous offer.”

      We are all invited to enter – Rev 22:17 but there will come a time when the offer is off the table and judgment takes place. I think maybe we aren’t agreeing on what the symbolism means of the gates being open. You are assuming that means new people can constantly pour into the city. I am assuming it is at that point a closed group of people and yet the symbol of a city that is not in conflict or war with evil because those powers have been subdued and judged and are no longer any threat…so the gates remain open.

    8. I don’t want Matt to feel ganged up on, but I wanted to add a comment. I hope you all are enjoying great discussion as much as I am. (this ended up being longer than I anticipated)

      Rev. 21:3 (“The tabernacle of God is among men and he will dwell with them, they shall be his people and he shall be their God”) is a quote from Ezek. 37:27. The context there is about the new covenant God would make with his people through their new King David when he restores the two houses of Israel (northern and southern, with the northern to have become Gentiles as Hosea presents and the southern Judah to be the Jews). This is the gospel proclamation, that in Jesus the true Israel is the bringing together of Jew and Gentile into one new man through the new covenant (Eph. 2). This establishes that God does dwell with man through the new covenant already and the new tabernacle is the body of Christ.

      The flow of Ezekiel and how it matches with Revelation is profound. Some scholars such as Boxall have noted this. He notes there are over 84 allusions or quotes from Ezekiel and in every chapter except 12-13 (which is found in Daniel). At the end of Ezekiel you have a new Temple built and a river flowing out of it that slowly grows over time. This is after the eschatological judgment, after the Gog/Magog event, after the two branches are restored and a new tabernacle and covenant is established.

      The problem with pushing this event out 2000 years and counting is that it forces that there be an additional (third) covenant made at the end of time, another tabernacle besides the church, and that Israel (the true Israel of God) has not yet been restored (the dispensationalists would agree). Yet Paul himself quoted this verse in 2 Cor. 6:16 because it was being fulfilled in the church when he spoke.

      I think this is really quite simple (though at the same time difficult because of deeply held emotional ties to this idea of the universe having to be destroyed and remade – though most amillennialists still don’t see the remade part). The identity of Babylon can be firm through Jesus’ definitive statements that I referred to above. John was told not seal up the vision because the time was “at hand” (same phrasing that John the baptizer used to say that the kingdom was “at hand” which meant within a few years), yet Daniel was told to seal the vision up because it was a long ways off (less than 600 years). Isaiah gives us the most description of the new heavens and earth, which fits precisely this historical view of it occurring at the destruction of Jerusalem, so it would require ignoring all this evidence and creating a new hermeneutic in order to make this about the literal universe rather than what it was in Isaiah.

      The problem that I think most have with this is the parts about death and dying and tears etc. That’s a debated point among those who take a fulfilled perspective on this but essentially I think it means there is no more Hadean death (20:13-14). This is critical because going to Hades rather than Heaven when one died was because of sin not being atoned yet (Heb. 9 is clear on this). The way into the most holy place (heaven) would not be opened until the day of atonement is complete (Heb. 9).

      My view on this is that the eschatological judgment already took place as promised, and the new Temple (heaven and earth reconciled in the church thru Jesus) is restored, and heaven is now “open for business.” Hades is gone. No more waiting for those who are in Jesus. The believer enters heaven in their new glorified body after they die on earth. This glorifies Jesus and his work.

      The view that Hadean death still exists and we must wait until God recreates the universe (something he could do at any time without the cross) just strips the gospel of all its power. It puts the power of the new covenant on par with that of the old covenant – saints still don’t enter heaven, still not atoned for sin (essentially even if denied that’s the result per Heb. 9). If Hades is gone however, then Jesus kept his promise to his disciples about his return and the benefits and blessings are available now rather than needing millennia to come about. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

      This also has practical applications because now the thirst for justice in the land falls on the shoulder of the elect to carry out. As the kingdom grows, so does the justice in the land. We’re probably only ankle deep right now in Ezekiel’s vision of the river of life flowing out from the new Temple in the new Jerusalem but we have these promises that the kingdom would grow and grow and eventually totally fill the earth (e.g. Isa 27:6). Fortunately we have a God capable of drying our tears. He dries them now through a restored relationship with him (something better than the old covenant), and he dries them in the true holy place above.

    9. As much as I’d love to pile on 🙂 I need to rest now and spend time with the family. Catch you all later.

    10. I agree that this might be powerfully proven one way or another by whether or not anyone actually enters the city. Like I said, whether it’s perpetual or not may be open for discussion, but if people, anyone, actually enters the city then it means that after the city is open for business (i.e., after the Parousia and the establishment of the New Heavens and New Earth) then the idea of an absolutely perfect future physical creation can’t work.

      My first example will come from Rev. 21:24ff

      24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth [s]will bring their glory into it. 25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; 26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those [t]whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

      In that section there seems to be an obvious reference to bringing things into the city, though nothing clean may enter. This implies to me that there is some sort of cleansing, making the passage in Rev. 22 regarding the function of the trees that line the river apply to this function (cf Ezekiel 47 with the trees lining the river and providing healing). My next example will come from Zechariah 14:16ff

      16 Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 17 And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. 18 If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 19 This will be the [h]punishment of Egypt, and the [i]punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.

      Everyone I’m aware of sees this prophetic fulfillment of this as the time of the Parousia. Premillennialists are very clear that this is post Parousia, and a clear description of the Millennium (some of them are quite literal about the interpretation). I’d propose a more spiritual fulfillment. But, even with that we have the basic dynamic of the implementation of the kingdom during human history, the reign over the nations, people entering the city, and punishment for those who don’t comply. Finally, we’ll look at Isaiah 66:15ff (one of my favorite passages with some very powerful implications):

      15 For behold, the Lord will come in fire
      And His chariots like the whirlwind,
      To render His anger with fury,
      And His rebuke with flames of fire.
      16 For the Lord will execute judgment by fire
      And by His sword on all flesh,
      And those slain by the Lord will be many.
      17 “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens,
      [g]Following one in the center,
      Who eat swine’s flesh, detestable things and mice,
      Will come to an end altogether,” declares the Lord.
      18 “For I [h]know their works and their thoughts; [i]the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. 19 I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, [j]Put, Lud, [k]Meshech, Tubal and [l]Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. 20 Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the Lord, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. 21 I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,” says the Lord.

      22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth
      Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the Lord,
      “So your offspring and your name will endure.
      23 “And it shall be from new moon to new moon
      And from sabbath to sabbath,
      All [m]mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the Lord.
      24 “Then they will go forth and look
      On the corpses of the men
      Who have [n]transgressed against Me.
      For their worm will not die
      And their fire will not be quenched;
      And they will be an abhorrence to all [o]mankind.”

      I’d encourage you to read the whole thing slowly. But, I’ll comment on just a few points. Within this passage we see a cataclysm in which God will demonstrate his power to every nation and tongue. Commentators generally see this as the parousia. Critically, after this event missionaries are sent out to recruit more believers (which means that some of the people that exist immediately after the Parousia aren’t believers). These missionaries go to lands that have never heard of God. That’s huge. There are lands that have never heard of God or the work of the Second Coming immediately after it happens. Finally, again, they are bringing the new recruits to the New Jerusalem, in the era of the New Heavens and New Earth.

      All of the major kingdom implementation passages I’m aware of follow this same pattern: climactic judgment and then people being brought into the city afterwards. I think the consistency of that dynamic makes my point very powerfully.

    11. Doug,
      I’ll let Matt answer for himself but typically in the churches of Christ we don’t look at the OT prophets as relating to the Parousia and judgement and NH&E. We divorce the OT from the NT at the cross. At best, these OT passages (as seen in the CoC) might apply to the Roman war of AD66-70, but any allusions to the “end of time” (an unbiblical phrase at that) are merely “borrowed terminology.” The details are ignored because if they are pressed they destroy our amillennialism. Premillennialists OTOH would apply them all to the Parousia and NH&E but in a futuristic and woodenly literal fashion. Both are a mistaken imho. The OT was not divorced at the cross, but were the foundation and basis of the impending eschatological crisis (eg Acts 3:17ff); likewise the prophets were not writting about events past AD70 (other than the perpetual growth of the kingdom post-Parousia and we’re not meant to be understood literally
      . This is where I bet you and Matt might end up talking past each other and might need to spend more time discussing.

  3. I’m enjoying the discussion. Here’s my favorite verse:

    Pro 13:12 ESV Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

    That may or may not have any practical bearing on this discussion.

    I’m not sure if I should join in on this or not, but I take the same track as Doug here. I’m looking at this not only contextually within the letter of Revelation itself but also from the meaning of the OT texts John echoes. In Isa. 65-66, the definitive OT text where the promise of a new heavens and earth is given, there’s lots of interesting things going on there.

    1) People are still dying in the new heavens and earth (NH&E) (65:20)
    2) There are still sinners in the new heavens and new earth (65:20)
    3) This is in the context of when God slays the disobedient old covenant people and calls his people by a new name (65:11-16)
    4) It’s within the city itself were the wolf and the lamb dwell, where they hurt each other no more (in OT prophets the animals were metaphors for people) (65:25)

    There’s certainly nothing in this promise which indicates what Rev. 21-22 is often thought to be saying.

    At risk of adding too many points to ponder at one time, I find it fascinating some of the internal connections in Revelation to Matthew and elsewhere which pin this event to be what happened at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD66-70. Here’s one of the most powerful:

    Rev 18:24 ESV And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”

    Mat 23:34-37 ESV Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, (35) so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. (36) Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (37) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

    I’m not sure how you can have two different entities, both of which being guilty for the blood of all the prophets and saints on earth!

    There’s a lot of other connections but for the sake of time I’ll just leave it here. I think though what this presents is that what Isaiah predicted (the end of the old covenant apostates and establishment of the new covenant people as the people of God) is what John sees happening “soon” and “at hand” when he wrote. That would then mean that the new Jerusalem is the new covenant people in contrast to the old Jerusalem (Gal. 4:21ff).

    This also helps put Acts 3:21 into its rightful context (about old covenant Israel and her promises such as what was pointed out in Isa 65), as not referring to bringing material creation into some kind of idyllic paradise, but rather restoring covenant relationship through Jesus Christ. The parallel to Acts 3:21, Heb. 9:10 (apokatastaseos and diorthoseos being synonyms), shows that the time of reformation was the ending of the temple system and sacrifices, which was yet future to the author when he wrote (vs. 8-9).

  4. You summed that up really well Jerel. I could be convinced OT passages are about the parousia…no problem there if that is where the best interpretation points. Isa 66 sure sounds like that is what is going on. It may be a dual fulfillment there (their immediate context + future events). I am open to that idea.

    1. Thank you Matt. You know, I camped out in the “double fulfillment land” for quite a while after seeing all these connections because it just seemed too far off-base and off my comfortable path to accept that AD70 was the singular parousia event. Eventually I realized that double fulfillment is an inconsistent hermeneutic. It was similar to my journey away from CoC legalism, realizing the folly of trying to fit everything we believed in from a CENI hermeneutic…CENI just made too many things inconsistent.

      Anyway, here are some of the problems I found with double fulfillment.

      1. The OT prophets never foretold two ends of two ages, two future kingdoms, two resurrections or two last days. There was just one, singular, eschatological event which included the judgment, resurrection, and kingdom.

      2. No NT writer ever said the events of their day were typological of greater events to come.

      3. Jesus said in Matt. 24:21 that the events of AD66-70 were the greatest that had ever been or ever would be (I don’t think that means literal sheer numbers or physicality, but of covenant importance), so how could the “greatest” events in biblical history foreshadow events that are even greater?

      4. If the events of AD70 were typological, then Christ must divorce and destroy the church (the new covenant people) as an unfaithful bride/harlot and marry another bride, just as he did with old covenant Israel. Otherwise it’s not really a type at all; certainly not fulfillment. (I know some who do argue however that Christ does destroy the church at his coming because it becomes so apostate, based on Dan. 12:7 – classic amillennialism – at least that’s trying to deal with the covenant divorce/judgment issue, dark and graceless though it be.)

      5. There really isn’t any such thing as “double fulfillment.” The supposed “first fulfillment” isn’t really “fulfillment” but just more shadows of the actual fulfillment. Some examples would be how Isa. 11:9 wasn’t fulfilled at the return from Babylon, and the 10 northern tribes in Ezek. 37 did not return from Babylon either. Jesus however said many times to his disciples that the OT prophets were being fulfilled in his generation; likewise so did the Apostles such as James in Acts 15:15f (btw there’s your “tabernacle” reference for Rev. 21…)

      6. The end of the old covenant age in AD70 can’t be typological of the end of something that is endless. The so-called “Christian age” or “Church age” (Biblically, the age of the Messiah that follows the age of Moses in the OT) has no end (“his kingdom shall have no end” – Luke 1:33; Isa. 9:7).

      7. Paul said the end/goal (teleos) of all the previous ages had come in his generation (1 Cor. 10:11).

      8. Types are always inferior, anticipating something better, so this raises questions as to how the redemptive work of Christ in the Church could be inferior to something else yet to come.

      9. Zion was typified heavily in the Psalms and Isaiah as being the dwelling place for Israel in the age to come. The first century church had come to Zion in Heb. 12:22-23, which was textually placed in contrast to Mt. Sinai. There’s no scriptural connection to a third Zion outside of the one to which the new covenant people had already come.

      10. Finally, two parousia events were never prophesied in the NT, and there are over 100 times where the one parousia event was said to be near, at hand, this generation, about to come, etc.

    2. Hi Matt. Well no, I don’t think it is, because of what I said about how the idea of “double fulfillment” isn’t really possible. You can’t “fill” something “full” twice. That’s true in simple English and math, and I believe it’s true in biblical prophecy (though double fulfillment is often touted in amillennial circles). The better approach IMO is to say there are shadows of fulfillment and then the actual fulfillment it pointed towards.

      In the case of Isaiah’s son, he really wasn’t the “fulfillment” of the passage, but rather was the shadow of Christ who is the true fulfillment. This approach also fits perfectly with the Babylon exile, since most of the things the prophets spoke of didn’t actually happen upon their return but were fulfilled in Christ and the church.

      I think 1 Corinthians 10:11 is important here. Paul says the events and people of Exodus were “types [Greek “tupoi”] of us” (i.e of the first century generation). That is the correct literal reading, as a host of scholars have noted. NT Wright (in Jesus and the Victory of God) and other scholars have noted the “second Exodus theme,” that the 40-year generation of Moses was the “type” of the 40-yr generation of Jesus. Type and antitype is different from double fulfillment.

      I think there are other reasons for rejecting the events of Revelation from having a double fulfillment, one of them being the finality of what is being done/remade. Matt. 24 doesn’t work as double fulfillment either, since Jesus already said the fall of the Temple and Roman war would be “the greatest in history” (paraphrase) and that it all would happen “on this generation.”

  5. I see what you mean there on double fulfillment in that it is not ultimately fulfilled until it is fully fulfilled…I would still call the first time around a fulfillment in the common usage of the word in that the thing that just happened here was talked about back there…and yet there is more to come.

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