Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Joel 2:18-27 – The Lord may be angry. We may feel that He is out to destroy us, but want He wants is that we SEE the reasons for His disappointment and respond with the will as a community to CHANGE OUR WAYS. There is no doubt that the prophets anthropomorphize this God. But this is understandable in the context of the biblical narrative, for we were created to be “like him”: “God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).
Just as the Lord was furious with his people, so now He takes pity. I will give you what you need, He says. “Never again shall I make you a thing of shame for the nations” (2:19). There will be “plenty” again. The “pastures on the heath [will be] green again, the trees bear fruit, vine and fig tree yield abundantly” (2:22). The people are told they should “rejoice in Yahweh,” that He will bring prosperity back to them.
“[Y]ou will know that I am Yahweh your God, with none to equal me. My people will not be disappointed any more” (2:27).
Joel 3 – Then come these very famous words of the prophet Joel, words of huge importance to early Christians and equally to early Friends.
“’After this I will pour out my spirit on all mankind. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men see visions. Even on the slaves, men and women, will I pour out my spirit in those days” (3:1-2). Portents will appear, portents of further disaster, but all “who call on the name of Yahweh will be saved” (3:5).
Joel 4 – The nations of the world will be put on trial for what they have done to God’s people. Tyre, Sidon and Philistia will be punished for what they have done to God’s people. They must prepare for war: “Hammer your ploughshares into swords, your sickles into spears” (4:10). These words reverse the words of Isaiah 2:4 which we like so well. There will be no peace for those nations that work to undermine and destroy God’s people.
“When that day comes, the mountains will run with new wine and the hills flow with milk, and all the river beds of Judah will run with water” (4:18). “Egypt will become a desolation, Edom a desert waste on account of the violence done to the sons of Judah whose innocent blood they shed in their country. But Judah will be inhabited forever, Jerusalem from age to age” (4:19-20).
Revelation 21 – Then he sees “a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1). The sea disappears – the abode of evil. And the holy city, the New Jerusalem, come down from God, “beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband” (21:2).
A voice calls out “You see this city? Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.” (21:2-4).
Then the One sitting on the throne spoke: ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new’ he said. ‘Write this: that what I am saying is sure and will come true.’ And then he said, ‘It is already done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water from the well of life free to anybody who is thirsty; it is the rightful inheritance of the one who proves victorious; and I will be his God and he a son to me” (21:5-7).
What wonderful words! No wonder they live through history. Even though I admit I cannot understand or relate to the detail described by this apocalyptic writer, the pain he describes I can relate to and the hope he has, that I get too. It is not only the pain of the martyrs he describes here; it is the pain that everyone who has lived and tried to live faithfully has suffered – the pain from routine family agonies, faithfulness gone seemingly unrewarded, the efforts of human beings who have tried and tried to make this world a better place. Oh, that we might hope to see it all redeemed even if we must wait to the very end of time.
The bride of Christ is described – the bride IS the NEW JERUSALEM, the Jerusalem of Ezekiel’s vision (see Ezekiel 40-47). The dimensions of the city are pure mathematically; the twelve walls are “faced” or decorated with precious stones: diamonds, lapis lazuli, turquoise, crystal, agate, ruby, quartz, malachite, topaz, emerald, sapphire and amethyst. And the twelve gates are single pearls (21:21).
There is no Temple in the city “since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb [are] themselves the temple, and the city did not need the sun or the moon for light, since it was lit by the radiant glory of God and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it” (21:22-23).
The pagan nations and all the kings or ruler of the earth will contribute to the treasures of the city and “the gates of it will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there” (21:25).