Every now and then, we have days, weeks, or even months when it seems that tragedy is surrounding us in every direction. The last few weeks have been one of those periods for me. Our church suddenly lost a member of our congregation this week. I have multiple friends who have lost grandfathers, mothers, and friends. I know others who are struggling with cancer and uncertain futures.
As Christians, we tend to freeze up in these times. It’s hard to always know how to walk someone through tragedies and suffering. It seems that we either rebuke each other for not being happy and “rejoicing in the Lord, always” or we try to comfort each other with cliché spiritual platitudes. Either way, we struggle to find how our holy, sovereign, and good God intersects with absolute despair.
I know it might sound crazy, but the most encouraging passage to me is not in Psalms or Philippians. I don’t find solace in reading about Job or Ruth, individuals who went through the worst kinds of despair. It’s in Revelation 21.
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. And I saw the holy city, 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, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 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. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
If you just casually skimmed that, read it again and savor each word.
I read this last night out loud and could barely make it through without crying. This is the Scripture’s epilogue and tells us of God’s final victory. It’s funny how so many people get into vicious debates about the order of End Times events and we miss this awesome truth at the end of it all.
As terrible and fallen as things may seem, there is coming a day in which this messed up world will come to an end, to be replaced with a new heaven and earth. On that day, God will make his dwelling place with us. He will be with us and we will be his people. He will put a final end to suffering, cast Satan and the entire realm of darkness into Hell, and make all things new. He will declare the story of creation over and declare us sons and daughters.
I think the most difficult part about tragedy is that when it crashes into your life, there isn’t anywhere you can go to escape. It haunts you whether you’re at the grocery store or safe under your covers at home. Death is a violating reality in which there is no relief. But when I read Revelation 21, I realize something incredible.
This isn’t home.
Believe it or not, that’s the most comforting thing for me. This world isn’t my kingdom, isn’t my home, and isn’t my place of refuge. This passage describes what home will really look like. So it’s completely natural that I should feel pain, sorrow, or difficulty while I’m here but I can trust that my King will someday return. He will wipe away my tears. He will defeat my enemy. He will make all things new and right again. And the best part? He will declare me his son.
Until that day, we eagerly anticipate his arrival just as the Israelites did in the years leading up to Jesus’ birth. We anticipate, but we don’t wait around. Until he returns, we’ve been commissioned to show the world glimpses of the Kingdom to come, sowing justice, mercy, and compassion while bringing others to trust Him. We do all of this knowing that his promises are true and he will return someday to make his dwelling place among us.