“For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.” – Isaiah 61:11
Thinking back to the descriptions in Genesis 2, of a world in harmony, with God and human beings living face-to-face and enjoying each other’s company, it is sobering to see how much the world has changed. Our sins continue to leave us feeling exposed and distant from our Creator and from each other. We still live under a curse.
The descriptions of Eden from Genesis can seem too good to be true, even foreign. Adam and Eve had no need for clothing. Everything is described as fresh and new and perfect.
In the same way, the visions from Revelation, at the other end of the Bible, can hardly seem real. They represent a complete return to Eden.
How is water as bright as crystal, a tree with twelve kinds of fruit, a complete absence of night and no need for a sun or stars in any way realistic? Is it possible that the writer is exaggerating, or using a metaphor? Given the history of biblical prophecy, it is more likely that the writer is struggling to find the right words to describe what he is seeing. Ezekiel’s description of resurrection out of the valley of dry bones (Ez. 37:1-14) or Isaiah’s description of the virgin conceiving (Is. 7:14) could not have seemed any more “realistic” to their original audiences.
But a virgin did conceive. And the dead body of Christ was raised. And it is because of these certainties that we look forward with confidence, and can take Jesus at his word when he says: “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Rev. 22:6-7).