top of page

Revelation 21:1-6

Of the many reasons I’ve heard for people not attending church, this one is the best, “It’s just too real…” Seriously, I think that’s the best reason to not go to church. Is this how people would describe your church? Too real?

The unfortunate truth is that many in my generation (Millennials) don’t attend church for the opposite reason; because they don’t believe church is real enough. Many feel like the church is too “otherworldly” or disconnected from the ins and outs of their lives. They get the sense that all churches care about is, in the words of Toby Mac, punching a “ticket to ride to the other side.”

This criticism of the church has come from an anemic eschatology and a particularly inappropriate reading of Revelation. Revelation 21:1-6 does not permit us to perpetuate this brand of eschatology. My seminary professor who taught a class over Revelation was known to say that you aren’t allowed to read Revelation unless you’ve read the first 65 books of the Bible. This sentiment carries for our reading today. To correct poor interpretations and to begin to understand what is happening in Revelation, we need to read the 20 chapters preceding this Sunday’s lection.

Much of the imagery of Revelation 21 is taken from earlier in the Revelation. Right away we see that the sea is no more. Those nautically inclined should not fret for this is imaginative language with theological implication, not literal application. The sea first appears around the throne in chapter 4 when it’s described like glass, like crystal. In the heavenly throne room the sea is not absent but has been tamed. When the 7th seal is opened in chapter 8 John writes in vivid imagery that the sea is a place of chaos; a third of the sea became blood, a third of the animals died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.