“Seeing from a New Perspective”
Revelation 21:9-10, 22:1-21
July 7, 2002
The book of Revelation reads more like the prophetic books of the OT, like Ezekial or Daniel, than the books we’re accustomed to reading in the NT, like the gospels or the letters of Paul. It is also filled with spectacular visions and metaphorical imagery. It is easy to get side tracked and caught up in all these visions and imagery trying to piece all of them together to come up with a concrete chain of events of what is going to happen in the future, but in the end we cannot know for sure. No one does, only God.
The question we must ask ourselves then is what is this book about? Is it about the coming apocalypse? Is it about the battle of Armageddon? Is it about the rise of the anti-christ? Is it about the rapture or tribulation? In some respects, yes, all of these things are in this book, but this book isn’t about these things. The book of Revelation is about the return of Christ, the exalted, glorified Christ. The one who was, is, and is to come.
Revelation is about the same Christ who walked the streets of Nazareth. The same one who ministered to and healed the people around the sea of Galilee. The same one who broke bread with the apostles on the night of his arrest. The same one who was betrayed and was handed over to be crucified. The very same one who died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins and who was raised on the third day. This book is about Jesus, the Jew, the Son of God, the Christ, but from a radically new perspective, a new perspective from which we must see.
Well, why do we need to see from a new perspective? Have you ever noticed how hard it is to completely see things while standing in one place? When we stand in one place our vision is always limited by the things that are in front of us. We can neither see through these things nor around them. The only way to see things clearly is to change our perspective, to move to another location, but sometimes this isn’t enough. Sometimes, even if we move, we still don’t have a clear view of things.
Have you ever been lost driving in your car? It doesn’t matter how many streets you travel down or how may turns you make you’re still lost. Maps can help. Maps show us roads, lakes, rivers, forests, and other things, which help guide us on our way. Maps can help you see from a new perspective, but sometimes they too don’t give us a clear view.
Have you ever been in an airplane and flown over your hometown, or been to the top of the mountains and looked down on where you live? Everything looks so different. You can suddenly see with a new perspective how the streets are arranged, how a highway curves, or how a river bends. You can suddenly see with great clarity how things are.
From where John was standing, he couldn’t see fullness of Christ’s glory that was until he was taken to the top of a high mountain. From there his whole perspective changed. He saw the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river was the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit and leaves for the healing of the nations. The same tree of life, which all were forbidden to eat from, is now available to all.
John also saw that God’s servants will see God’s face, and God’s name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. No longer will anyone be afraid of what the night brings. No longer will the darkness of sin keep us from the glory of God. No longer will our eyes be shut, for our light will be the light from the radiant glory of the Almighty God. The visions John saw were glorious visions. When he looked upon the world from a new perspective, he saw things that he would have never seen standing in one place. So in order for us to see from a new perspective, we too must have our perspective changed.
Well, then, how do we change our perspective?
Rev. 21:10 says John was carried away. He was carried to a new location. He couldn’t see the things he saw from where he was standing, and like John, we too must be carried away and moved. We must be moved from our current location to a place where we can see from a new perspective. We must be moved from daily routines, our comfortable places, and our safe environments.
Last summer I was required to take Clinical Pastoral Education, and I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to go work in a hospital for the summer, fulltime, 40 hours a week. I told people that I didn’t want to because I needed to work in a church, but the real reason was because I was scared. I was comfortable doing what I was doing. I was comfortable in my own little rut in life, and hospitals are certainly not comfortable places.
But, I will tell you, if it wasn’t for CPE, I would not be able to be a pastor. If it wasn’t for CPE, I would not know what it means to truly love and care for people. If it wasn’t for CPE, I would not know what it means to be truly loved and cared for by others. CPE changed my life. It changed my understanding about what it means to be a pastor, and it made me a better person.
When we change our perspective, we see Jesus in new and glorious ways. But we can only change our perspective, when we physically move from one place to another.
So how do we physically move? Rev. 21:9 says the angel came to John and said, “Come, I will show you….” John couldn’t go on his own to see from a new perspective, he had to be taken. We too have to be taken. We are taken to new places, not by angels, but by faith given by the grace of God, who frees us from the necessity of trying to justify and save ourselves and frees us for God and for Christian action in faithful obedience. Faith becomes possible when we put ourselves in a place where we can hear about and experience God’s grace, love, and forgiveness over and over, and where we can actively participate in God’s mission in the world. This new place is the church, the community of faith, the body of Christ.
If we are to change our perspective, we need to move to a new location. Maybe this means becoming more involved in the life of the church by teaching Sunday School, becoming an elder, or just being willing to serve the church when we are needed. Maybe it means getting out of our place and into a new place, for example getting involved in the mission of the church like visiting people in hospitals, visiting the homebound, working in soup kitchens or homeless shelters, or even the prisons.
But seeing from a new perspective does not only mean being moved to a new location physically, it also means being moved to a new location spiritually. Rev. 21:10 also says that John was carried away in spirit.
How can we change our perspective spiritually?
We can’t on our own. The reality of sin in our lives keeps us from seeing from a new perspective. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that enables and empowers us to move to a new and different location spiritually. The Holy Spirit brings new life, new wisdom, and new guidance from God. The Spirit calls, holds together, and sends us out as a reconciled community called the church, and the Spirit works in the world to create a whole new humanity and a whole new creation.
When the Spirit breaks into our lives, our old ways of seeing, thinking, and living are left behind and new ways of seeing, thinking and living begin to take over. Shirley Guthrie writes, “When the Holy Spirit comes there is the dawn of a new day, hope for a new and different future, and courage and strength to move toward it.” This is the new vision in which John saw the future. From a new spiritual perspective, John was able to see the completeness of Christ.
We see from a new spiritual perspective when we take our eyes off ourselves and turn them to Christ. Christ alone is the alpha and omega, we are not. Christ alone is the first and the last, we are not. Christ alone is the beginning and the end, we are not. Christianity is not about our beginning. It is not about when we were “reborn”. Christianity is not about our end or afterlife. Christianity is about Christ.
We cannot continue to look with self-centered eyes, but rather we must look with Christ-centered eyes. We must be so focused on Christ that we are able to see the coming dawn of a new day, which gives us hope for a new and different future.
This is the radical new perspective in which we must see Christ for when we see from this new perspective we see a reversal of the Christ’s coming glory. It is not us who come into the future, but rather it is Christ who comes into our present. Christ, himself, says three times, “Behold, I am coming quickly.” He is already moving toward us, and he is coming soon.
No longer can we wait until later before we change our perspective. No longer can we wait until later to be righteous or holy for the time of Christ’s coming is near. When we see Christ from a new perspective, we do not see an avenging, wrathful judge, we see the one who is the Lamb of God, the one who calls us to come and take from the water of life freely, the one who is for us and not against us, the one who is Immanual – God with us.
When we see Christ from a new perspective we are able to say with John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” and we can be assured that the grace of the Lord Jesus will be with all. Amen.