This post is part of an ongoing series. You can find links to all the posts here.
Some of the content of this post was anticipated in the previous one, when we looked at the consequences of sin as described in Genesis 3 and then saw how Revelation 21-22 show that, when Jesus returns, all of these consequences will be dealt with (including the curse that is placed on creation). Today, we are going to continue to spend time in these same areas of Scripture.
Before we do that, though, I want to reflect on the nature of Scripture itself: what is this book we have that we call “the Bible”?
Well, first, we should probably point out that the Bible is not a book so much as it is a library of books. As we have it, it is a library of 66 books written over hundreds and hundreds of years by dozens of people. Nevertheless, in the background, behind all of these human authors is the reality that Scripture is God-breathed: in a way that we will never fully understand, the Holy Spirit worked in conjunction with humans to produce the Bible.
So, when I say that the Bible is a library of books, I don’t mean to say that because of that, it is hopelessly disjointed or contradictory; no: the Bible is a library of books all telling the same grand Story.
And we need to come to that Story on its own terms.
When asked what the Bible is, many Christians would say something about it being an instruction manual for how to go to heaven when we die (ever heard the B.I.B.L.E. = “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth mnemonic device?). As we discussed in an earlier post, not only does the phrase “go to heaven” not appear anywhere in the Bible in relation to death, this also just doesn’t seem to be the grand Story that Genesis is introducing. Genesis doesn’t talk about going to heaven when we die, and there are only minimal instructions. Instead, it introduces a story about a good God who lovingly created a good world. He created humanity in His image and tasked them with overseeing and stewarding His creation. When humans disobeyed God and betrayed His trust, they were sent into exile, sin reigned in the world, and creation was tainted, but God did not give up on His people or His creation. Instead, God set a plan in place to redeem and restore humanity, and, indeed, all of creation.
This is what you would expect from reading the first book of the Bible, and it’s what you get when you read the last book of the Bible. Even though Genesis and Revelation were written hundreds of years apart by different authors in different languages, when compared to one another they provide fitting bookends to the Scripture library.
(It would be of great benefit to read Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 21-22 back-to-back before proceeding. Go ahead…I’ll wait.)
Creation and New Creation
Simply put, Genesis 1-3 describes the creation of the heavens and the earth, and Revelation 21-22 talks about the new creation of the new heavens and new earth. In the description of the new heavens and new earth in Revelation 21-22, over and over again you have echoes of what occurred in the creation of the heavens and earth in Genesis 1-3:
- In Genesis 1.4, there is a division of light and darkness; in Revelation 21.25, there is no night.
- In Genesis 1.10, there is a division of land and sea; in Revelation 21.1, there is no more sea.
- In Genesis 1.16, the rule of the sun and moon is described; in Revelation 21.23, we learn that there is no need for the sun or moon.
- In Genesis 2.10, we are told about a river flowing out of the Garden of Eden; in Revelation 22.1, we are told about a river flowing from God’s throne.
- Genesis 2.9 describes the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden; Revelation 22.2 describes the Tree of Life throughout the city.
- Genesis 2.12 tells us that gold and precious stones are in the land; Revelation 21.19 tells us that gold and precious stones are throughout.
- God walks in the garden, among His creation as described in Genesis 3.8; Revelation 21.3 states that God’s dwelling will be with His people.
- Following Adam and Eve’s sin, Genesis 3.17 states that the ground itself will be cursed; in the New Creation, there will be no more curse (Revelation 22.3).
- As a result of sin and the curse, life in creation is characterized by pain and sorrow (Genesis 3.17-19); in the new creation, there will be no more sorrow, pain, or tears (Revelation 21.1-4).
- Additionally, the sin results in death, described as a returning to the dust (Genesis 3.19); in the New Heavens and New Earth, there is no more death (Revelation 21.4).
- Adam and Eve are banished from the garden, and cherubim guard the entrance to it (Genesis 3.24); angels actively invite into the city in Revelation 21.9.
There are actually many more points of comparison that could be made, but I think these are sufficient to prove the point: in Revelation, John is clearly describing the eternity that God’s people will spend with Him in the New Heavens and New Earth in language that echoes back to the story of creation and fall in Genesis 1-3.
In making these connections between Revelation and Genesis, John is making a significant and profound theological point, and it is, in fact, the point of the Story of Scripture. God is going to redeem, recreate, and perfect the creation that was tainted by our sin. And when He does so, He will dwell with His people forever.
When I say “as we have it,” I am not implying that there are missing books of the Bible or anything like that. Rather, this is a reflection of the fact the number 66 is a product of combining the New Testament to the Hebrew Bible, and counting the books of the Hebrew Bible differently (for example, originally, Ezra and Nehemiah were combined in one book, 1-2 Kings were one book, etc.).
Beginning to read Scripture in this way, as a grand, overarching, and interconnected Story, was a game-changer for me. Rather than pulling verses (or even entire books!) out of context, they must be read in light of the Story that Scripture is telling.
See Wes McAdams, “7 Things I Noticed When I Read Genesis Today,” and “A Quick Summary of the Old Testament.” These posts come from a series in which Wes read entire books of the Bible in one sitting to better glean the broad themes and discern the Story that Scripture tells. I highly recommend the series and the book that came from it.
Or, we could say, the “recreation of the renewed heavens and renewed earth.” This is not a theological point that I am simply asserting here; the whole series has pointed in this direction. And we see it here, in Revelation 21.5: Jesus does not say, “I am making all new things”; He says, “I am making all things new.” This is renewal language: the point of Revelation 21-22 is that God is performing an epic makeover. Certainly, absolutely, things are different, but there are clear and repeated points of continuity to what was before.