John’s Revelation looks, at first reading, as though it was composed while the author was on an acid trip. But this is a Jewish author, writing with Jewish sensibilities, about the savior who, as Scripture tells us, came from the Jews.
The point is that to approach Revelation as one might approach a newspaper story misses much of the point. God’s glory is based on some hard facts, but neither John, nor I, nor you, have the proper words to describe the ultimate glory that awaits those who are chosen to sit by the throne.
The description of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21is a case in point. In 21:3 we get a reprise of God’s covenant with Israel, this time the new Israel:
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
Immanuel, God with us, as prophesied by Isaiah (7:14). This prophecy is usually taken to refer to the birth of Jesus, as it does. But it also refers to the joining of God, the He Who Is of Torah, with those chosen for salvation.
Here’s where we separate, as Jesus told us, the sheep from the goats. And we, of necessity, return to a very Jewish reading of how God’s grace must work in us: to live moral lives, to follow our saviour Jesus, our king, in our hearts, minds, and souls. Revelation 21:27
But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Note that “nothing unclean will ever enter it.” This is a restatement of the Mosaic Law, as personified in the Lamb of God, Jesus. Those who are called to follow Jesus must follow Him in all ways. At least attempt to do so.
We fail, of course. We still sin. But, I believe that once we are called to follow Jesus Christ, God begins His work to purify us. Part of this sanctification must be that we sin less, and when we do sin, we bloody well know it. And, in good Jewish fashion, are guilty over our failures.