February 1: Revelation 21:5-6a

Revelation 21:5-8

The initial vision of the “new heavens and new earth” and of the “new Jerusalem” were given in summary form in vv. 1-4 (cf. the previous notes); the same continues in vv. 5-8, before a more detailed description of the New Age in the remainder of chapters 21-22. If the focus was on the Creation in vv. 1-4, in verses 5-8 it is the Creator who is in view.

Revelation 21:5-6a

According to the best reading of v. 3, the voice making the declaration comes out of the throne (qro/no$, ruling-seat) of God in heaven (cf. also 16:17; 19:5); this suggests that it is God who speaks, though he is not identified as such. Now, however, in verse 5, the voice is localized as coming from “the one sitting on the throne”, that is, from God Himself. This is proper to the context of the vision, in which the heavenly city descends to earth and God is said now to dwell with His people. It is important to the character of this vision that God should manifest Himself (to His people) as He speaks:

“And the (One) sitting upon the ruling-seat said: ‘See! I make all (thing)s new!’ And (then) He says, ‘You must write, (in) that [i.e. because] these accounts are trust(worthy) and true’. And (then) He said, ‘They have come to be. I [Am] the Alpha and the O(mega), the beginning and the completion.'”

The statement “I make all (thing)s new”, taken together with “the first (thing)s went away” at the end of the prior verse, echoes God’s prophetic declaration in Isaiah 43:18-19, and serves as a fulfillment of that prophecy (as also of Isa 65:16-17). There is a clear contrast between the first/former things (prw=ta) and the new things (kaina/)—that is, between the old and new creation, emphasizing again the theme of newness (adj. kaino/$), of the New Age that is to come.

The command for the seer to write all this down is significant in that there is an emphasis, not only on the prophecies of what is to come, but on their fulfillment. The second person imperative (gra/yon, “you must write”, “write!”) has been used repeatedly throughout the book (1:11, 19; 2:1ff; 3:1ff [7 times in chaps. 2-3]; 14:13; 19:9). The plural lo/goi (“accounts”, i.e. words, sayings, things said) can be taken as a comprehensive reference to the entire visionary narrative (i.e. all the visions and descriptions in the book), but especially to the climactic vision of chaps. 21-22, as the fulfillment of what God has promised throughout. In other words, for the believers to whom the book was written, they can be sure that God will indeed act (and soon!) in Judgment, bringing a definite end to the current Age of wickedness and corruption. The suffering and persecution one may face in the present, and in the period of distress, will soon be over, replaced by the heavenly/eternal life that awaits for those who remain faithful. This promise is “trustworthy” (pisto/$) and “true” (a)lhqino/$), meaning that it is real and will be fulfilled.

The second declaration made by God (v. 6) begins with the simple exclamation “They have come to be!” (ge/gonan). This verbal form (3rd person plural perfect) is a bit unusual, occurring elsewhere only in Rom 16:7; some manuscripts read instead the first person singular (ge/gona, “I have come to be”), but this is certainly not correct. The emphasis is simply on the fact that the things spoken by God have come to be, which includes this new Creation; the idea echoes the first Creation (Genesis 1), in which the things God spoke came into existence (i.e. came to be)—cf. the use of the verb gi/nomai, together with the motif of creation through God’s Word, in John 1:3, 6, 10ff. It is also reminiscent of the dying word of Jesus on the cross in John 19:30 (“It has been completed”, tete/lestai), referring to the completion of Jesus’ earthly mission; now the same sort of single-word perfect declaration marks the completion (te/lo$) of the current Age.

God’s self-identification as “the Alpha and the O(mega)”, utilizing the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (a&lfa [A] and w)me/ga [W], the latter given here as pronounced, w@). This repeats the divine declaration from 1:8 (cf. my earlier note), though without the added phrase “the beginning [a)rxh/] and the completion [te/lo$]” (according to the best manuscripts). Here the emphasis is specifically on the beginning and end of Creation, with God’s role as Creator. He brings the old Creation, the old Age, to completion, and creates an entirely new Age, a new order of things. This divine self-identification applies to God the Father (YHWH) here (and in 1:8); however, in 22:13 it is used of the exalted Christ, showing again how, according to the fundamental early Christian belief, the exalted Jesus has a role and position alongside God the Father, sharing the same Divine power and authority. Like much of the language here in the vision, this wording reflects passages in deutero-Isaiah (chaps. 40-66, cf. 41:4, 26; 44:6; 48:12).

The next daily note will continue this discussion on vv. 6b-8.

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