The book of Revelation ends with this beautiful picture of God making the world right again. Chapters 21 and 22 picture the world after the new creation. It’s a time when death, crying, and mourning has been undone. It pictures a river that flows from the throne of God that nourishes the trees of life that stand on either side of the river providing life for humanity. The text declares that there is no need for a temple anymore because God is continually present in the city. The message is clear, God is victorious, sin and death are defeated, and those who put their trust in God will reign for eternity in God’s kingdom.
Yet while the final chapters paint a picture of a beautiful future with God, the majority of the book is filled with reminders that the world now, and the world in the future, will be filled with much pain. As the seals are opened from the scroll, and the bowls of fury are unleashed on the world, John envisions a future filled with death and disease. The horseman ride out to wreak havoc on the world. The angels unleash the four winds and allow terror to sweep through the land. God removes the hand of protection and allows the sins of the world to continue their destructive forces. The Beast and the Prostitute lead the masses astray. Many in the world will succumb to their powers, following the ways of the world instead of the ways of God. It’s a future in which events appear to be getting worse, instead of getting better.
This is not the way we expect the future of the world to progress. We expect the world to slowly be formed more into the image of God. We expect the progress of the world to move towards good, and not evil. We expect as more people put their trust in God the world will become more Christian. We expect for crime to end. We expect for families to stay together. We expect for love and peace to reign. And while they ultimately will, the time leading up to that final victory will seem that the enemy is winning. The days leading up to the new creation will appear evil and destructive. It will seem that the world is falling apart quickly. Christians may even begin to lament the loss of a golden age, and fear that everything around them in culture is falling apart. Because of fear, they may retreat to safe places, sheltering with other Christians to avoid the destructive culture around them. It will be a scary time.
Fear is an interesting emotion. While not evil in itself, and sometimes justified, fear can display a lack of trust in God. Countless times in scripture humanity is encouraged not to fear, but instead to trust in God. When leaving Egypt Israel is commanded not to fear. When entering the promised land Israel is commanded not to fear. When facing enemy armies Israel is commanded not to fear. When facing an uncertain future God reminds us not to fear. The reason we should not fear when the events of life have become dangerous is because our future is not based on us overcoming the obstacle, but on the goodness of God. We do not fear because we trust God to be faithful to the story. We do not fear because we trust that the ultimate outcome of God’s victory is secure.
That’s the message of the book of Revelation. God’s ultimate victory is secure. God will bring about the new creation. We know the end of the story, and in the end of the story God, and thus God’s people, win. Because we know the outcome of the story we can face an uncertain future with trust, and not fear. Yes, events in the world are bad. Terrorists continue to kill. Crime continues in our streets. Powerful individuals continue to lead through corruption. Sickness and death continue. But none of these evil forces will stop the ultimate victory. None of these evil forces will keep God from bringing about the new creation. Even death is not the end of the story, because Jesus promises the resurrection. The book of Revelation provides the ultimate trump card in life. God will be victorious, therefore, do not fear. Even though the world is still filled with evil, God’s reign is fixed. Be concerned about those around you, and work for the good of all people, but do not fear. The future is secure.