Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Revelation 21: The Streets are Paved with Gold

Check out today's episode

The New Heaven and the New Earth (v. 1-8)

Then John saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old earth had passed away and the sea was no more.

It's funny, I didn't quite make this connection until the mention of the sea, during the time of the apocalypse, the sea was turned to blood. This made me realize why a new earth is needed, it's because God allowed the old earth to be completely screwed up during the apocalypse. It must have been easier to simply start from scratch that to fix the old one.

A nice new city, new Jerusalem, came down from heaven "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" and God said his dwelling place is with man. He will be with them, he will wipe away every tear. Death, mourning, crying and pain will be no more, as these things have passed away.

Is this a description of heaven? No death indicates the immortality that we normally think of. And no pain, mourning or crying certainly fit well into my mental picture of heaven. And yet this somehow feels much different than the picture I have in my head, it seems much more physical maybe, I'm not sure. I always picture things being up in the clouds, could it be that my image of heaven is heavily influenced by lazy newspaper comic artists who want to get away with drawing clouds instead of landscapes?

Also, let's take a moment to look at the inherent sexism that is contained within the description of new Jerusalem. The bride being adorned for her husband sounds awfully like she's a commodity to me, being served up for his liking. Are we sure these are the people we want to take our morality from?

God says he will make all things new. He will give the thirsty the water of life without payment. For the one who conquers I will be his God and he will be my son.

It's funny to me that it says "without payment". There might be no money at this point in time, but getting here isn't free. If you were rich you had to get rid of all your stuff and sell it to the poor, if you lived through the apocalypse you had to not get the mark of the beast and forgo commerce for 3.5 years. There are countless other costs to get to this point. To say you are getting this water of life without payment is like saying the food on a cruise is free. Sure, I don't have to whip out my credit card at every meal, but I certainly pay for the food.

Not everyone will get this fate though, if you are among the following list, you will burn forever in the lake of fire and sulfur: cowardly, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, liars.

If you take a close look at the list, the only really bad item is murder. Being a coward seems more of a problem for the person than for anyone else, certainly doesn't seem like a reason to burn someone for eternity. Being faithless is good. I'm not completely sure what detestable means, but I guess like being a coward, it seems like more of a personal problem than anything. As long as everyone consents sexuality is fine. Sorcerers and idolaters just show the time period this thing was written in. And finally liars, well if lying gets you thrown into the lake of fire then everyone will be in there together, because everyone lies from time to time.

The New Jerusalem (v. 9-27)

An angel took John to a high mountain where he could see new Jerusalem coming out of the sky. A ridiculous amount of detail is given about the city, including the fact that it is made of transparent gold. Also, the city was a cube, measuring about 1380 miles long, wide, and tall. The city gives off light, so it doesn't need the sun to shine on it.

It's funny, I was told as a child that in heaven the streets were made of gold. I haven't thought about it in a long time, but it was one of the earlier things set off my bullshit detector. I remember thinking it was obviously a simplified way you would tell a stupid person that heaven is great, but there is no way it would literally have streets made of gold. I always assumed it was some nonsense made up later by some Sunday school teacher who was having trouble communicating the majesty that heaven must really be. It's kinda funny to see it actually in the bible.

What lessons are contained in today's reading?

--Lists-- (I hate these stupid lists and never know how to categorize them)

Revelation 20:8 These things earn you hellfire

"But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."


Revelation 20:2 Women are commodities

"And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."


  1. Great assessments Hausdorff! According to the Bible, written by wine inspired ancient old men, women have been commodities ever since they were created in Genesis and then blamed for all sins thereafter for seeking knowledge. I'm a woman and I don't buy it!

    1. "written by wine inspired ancient old men"

      I love this! :)

      And you are spot on about the women as commodities in the bible. I'll never understand the women who will allow themselves to be considered less valuable because an ancient book says so.

  2. "...God allowed the old earth to be completely screwed up during the apocalypse. It must have been easier to simply start from scratch that to fix the old one."

    I could make a commentary about right-wing Christians and their disdain for the environment here.

    "...cowardly, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, liars."

    So, apparently politicians and Dungeons and Dragons fans aren't getting into heaven. :D

    Finally, wouldn't a city made of gold be uncomfortably hot and aesthetically bland? Give me city blocks of brick, stone, glass, murals, and green parks any day.

    1. "I could make a commentary about right-wing Christians and their disdain for the environment here."

      Yeah, my dad was a huge fan of Rush Limbaugh when I was growing up. I remember one day he was complaining about the "environmentalist wackos" and how God put things here for us to use, we could do with it as we please. Even as a God fearing child, this didn't sound right to me. Luckily as the years have gone by my dad has chilled out on that stuff.

      As to the city being made of gold, we do have to remember that it is transparent gold. I don't really know what that means actually, but maybe that helps. Also, Looking back I didn't put this in the summary, but there are also gemstones all over the place. v19 "The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel." and it goes on to name a bunch of jewels. Actually kinda makes me think of my grandmother's gaudy jewelry.

  3. It is funny to see that most Christians are even wrong about what awaits them in the afterlife, huh Hausdorff? It is not heaven, but a new earth in a physical realm.

    By the way, it is also interesting to see how Christianity turned a metaphorical message into a literal one. The new heavens and new earth idea comes from a prophesy in Isaiah 65 and Isaiah 66, with Isaiah 65:17 and Isaiah 66:22 specifically mentioning them. When you read the entire prophesy, to me it becomes rather clear that it is a metaphorical message of starting over, and essentially you could use those same terms to describe what happened with the Flood; sort of a reset of civilization.

    1. Yeah, it is funny. Revelation itself does seem pretty clear that we are talking about a literal new heaven and earth, but I did wonder to myself if it grew out of some "starting over" narrative. Thanks for the references. I scanned through it, one thing that jumped out at me is 65:21 is that it specifically mentions people building houses and working in fields, not that God just made it all for us.

      It makes me think of when people have a big life change, either moving to a new city for a new job, or maybe just getting out of a bad relationship. They might say "This is the new me", we would think a person silly to take that literally.


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