Dr. Diffey serves as Associate Professor of Old Testament within the College of Theology at GCU. He has his BA in History, completed an MDiv in Christian Ministry, and earned a PhD in Old Testament before becoming a professor. His interests are in the area of Old Testament and biblical theology. He is married to Anne and has three children.
When we read any part of the Bible it is important to know where the section we are reading fits within the biblical storyline. It is similarly important to know if what we are reading is discussed anywhere else in Scripture. When we read about creation there are a lot of things that we could talk about, but I want to focus on one thing that is crucial to understand that concerns both the storyline of the Bible and a theme that is found the beginning and end of Scripture. The creation narrative in Genesis 1-2 is bookended by the new creation narrative in Revelation 21-22.
The biblical storyline begins with God dwelling with his people. They are in the Garden of Eden and everything is in right relationship, everything is in harmony, there is a tree of life, a stream and precious stones and metals.
This is how the new heaven and new earth (the New Jerusalem) are pictured in the book of Revelation. The apostle John, the author of Revelation, describes the new heaven and new earth in a very similar way to how the Garden of Eden is described:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “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. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
Here the focus is on God dwelling with His people. This is a central aspect to the biblical storyline because after Genesis 3 humanity is separated from God because of sin. The storyline of Scripture then shows how God reconciles humanity to Himself through His Son by bringing about a new creation. In the very next chapter the description from Revelation 21 is added to by John noting writing about the tree of life and the Lamb:
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5)
Can you see the similarities between these Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22? In the new creation in the book of Revelation the fall of humanity in Genesis 3 is overturned and God’s people and place are back in right relationship with Him. The created order is in harmony again. And this is all done through the work of the Lamb who is on His throne.
The biblical storyline begins and ends with this same basic picture, but in the new heavens and new earth there is the Lamb, Jesus Christ, on His throne in the midst of his people. The bookends of creation and new creation form the framework for the biblical storyline and for the Christian worldview. This should draw a response from us. We should be drawn to God in worship like in Revelation 4:11. We should also long for the day when Jesus returns to bring all things back into right relationship. And while we are here in this broken world we should so long for that right relationship with God that we live out the two greatest commandments, a love for God and a love for others (Matthew 22:36-39), in a supernatural way that manifests itself in a life characterized by Christian fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).
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