20 intriguing Biblical visions in 20 words.
20. The Feast.
Everyone loves a good time.
Laughter, food, drinks, friendship.
Honour, truth, justice, compassion and humility wait on tables.
The scene is set.
The place prepared.
Crystal glasses sparkle in sunlight.
Silver cutlery shines.
The band are sound checked and tuned up.
The kitchen’s jammed with fresh food.
The cellar’s bursting with amber nectar.
The mansion awaits the arrival of many.
The king himself has sent out invitations.
But something’s wrong.
It’s taking too long.
They’ve been misread.
Replies are dribbling in rather than people.
Excuses pile up.
Tumbleweed is drifting through the estate.
So the king is changing clothes.
Putting on jeans and a t shirt.
He’s going out to do a bit of door knocking.
If folks feel his invitations are too much like cold calling –
He’ll warm their hearts with a personal visit.
Knock, knock – who’s there?
Open the door, find out.
1 Wisdom has built her spacious house with seven pillars. 2 She has prepared a great banquet, mixed the wines, and set the table. 3 She has sent her servants to invite everyone to come. She calls out from the heights overlooking the city. 4 “Come home with me,” she urges the simple. To those without good judgment, she says, 5 “Come, eat my food, and drink the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your foolish ways behind, and begin to live; learn how to be wise.”
20 “Look! Here I am – standing at the door and knocking. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a great meal as friends.”
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19. The Four Charioteers.
In another place.
Four die-hard angels wait.
Battle hardened, street wise.
They get ready to ride and right wrongs.
Easy to think sleaze has triumphed.
That the laws of goodness lie dying in the gutter.
Celebrity holds sway.
Fame holds the purse strings.
The little people, the unknown, the forgotten, the ordinary.
They seem to be losing ground.
But one day all will change.
The four horsemen will saddle up.
Reality will ride the streets again.
The truth will ring from the rooftops and street corners.
And it will bring with it a new age of mercy, honesty and kindness.
1 Then I looked up again and saw four chariots coming from between two bronze mountains. 2 The first chariot was pulled by red horses, the second by black horses, 3the third by white horses, and the fourth by dappled-grey horses. 4“And what are these, my lord?” I asked the angel who was talking with me.
5 He replied, “These are the four spirits of heaven who stand before the Lord of all the earth. They are going out to do his work. 6 The chariot with black horses is going north, the chariot with white horses is going west, and the chariot with dappled-grey horses is going south.”
7 The powerful horses were eager to be off, to patrol back and forth across the earth. And the LORD said, “Go and patrol the earth!” So they left at once on their patrol.
3 Put on your sword, O mighty warrior! You are so glorious, so majestic!
4 In your majesty, ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice.
Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds!
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18. The Plumb Line.
A wall built crooked will eventually collapse.
Plumb lines enable true construction.
Steady against the elements.
Strong against life’s madness.
A house built on a rock or a hard place will survive.
A castle on a swamp will be forgettable.
Easy to be discouraged by correction.
Feel beaten down by plumb lines.
But a good father guides and corrects.
Instructs, rebukes and strengthens.
And a good father encourages.
Pats on the back and celebrates the good straight walls.
And the building on the hard places.
7 Then he showed me another vision. I saw the Lord standing beside a wall that had been built using a plumb line. He was checking it with a plumb line to see if it was straight. 8And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?”
I answered, “A plumb line.”
And the Lord replied, “I will test my people with this plumb line. I will no longer ignore all their sins. There are things which will destroy them and bring them down. I can’t stand by and watch that happen.
11 My child, don’t ignore it when the LORD disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. 12For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.
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17. War in Heaven.
Sometimes it seems as if there’s more going on.
A bad day, a hard night.
Walking against the wind.
Events in another realm.
The battle fought and won.
Pockets of resistance still holding on.
Incursions into the land of good.
The shadows still creep across.
Our minds play out re-enactments.
Fog still falls.
And we, the walking wounded, long for the day of peace.
When the final treaty is ratified.
War no more.
7 Then there was war in heaven. Michael and the angels under his command fought the dragon and his angels. 8 And the dragon lost the battle and was forced out of heaven. 9 This great dragon – the ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world – was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.
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Even trash looks good in white.
The heavens open, the silent blanket falls.
One flake at a time.
Makes everything clean.
Changes our behaviour, our response.
The day shimmers bright.
It stops us racing about.
We watch out for others.
Life with the handbrake on.
Like waking up in another world.
Another dimension where nothing had ever gone wrong.
We didn’t carry those scars or bear the pain from that damage.
The regrets, the guilt, the harboured malice.
All cleaned up, with every place to go.
We can start again.
Walk those streets with a smile.
7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me – now let me rejoice.
9 Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a right spirit within me.
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15. The Vineyard.
Late night vandals, ripping up fences and tearing down vines.
Land once landscaped, abused and mutilated under the pale moon.
Heavy boots kicking and tramping.
Running wild through a once loved garden.
Once rich, fertile, the envy of the neighbours.
Now just a bomb site.
A derelict allotment.
Shed door caved in, windows smashed, dung smeared everywhere.
Tools cracked across the knee.
Fuel and fertiliser daubed over broken wood.
And the biggest shock – this wasn’t vandals.
This was the gardener himself.
Later, much later, he’ll return.
With another plan, another vision.
if the garden won’t bear good fruit he won’t run riot.
He’ll give it another chance.
Wait one more year.
Tend it again.
Hope for change.
My beloved has a vineyard on a rich and fertile hill.
2 He ploughed the land, cleared its stones, and planted it with choice vines. In the middle he built a watchtower and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks. Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes, but the grapes that grew were wild and sour. 3“Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah, you have heard the case; you be the judges. 4 What more could I have done to cultivate a rich harvest? Why did my vineyard give me wild grapes when I expected sweet ones? 5 Now this is what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will tear down its fences and let it be destroyed. I will break down its walls and let the animals trample it. 6 I will make it a wild place. I will not prune the vines or hoe the ground. I will let it be overgrown with briers and thorns. I will command the clouds to drop no more rain on it.”
6 Then Jesus used this illustration: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. 7 Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s taking up space we can use for something else.’ 8“The gardener answered, ‘Give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. 9 If we get figs next year, fine. If not, you can cut it down.’”
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Paddling, wading, swimming, drowning in the stuff.
Knees, legs, elbows battling against the rising tide.
Not just any water.
One day in the future a man will meet a woman.
He’ll break taboos and share a drink with her.
And they’ll talk about this vision.
‘Living water?’ he’ll say, ‘No problem. I can give you some of that.
And it won’t come out of a building.
Won’t rely on bricks and mortar.
It’ll come out of people.
And you’ll be one of them.
Wherever you go things will come back to life.’
And she’ll run back home.
And people will come ‘streaming’ to see the man who had revived her.
1 Then the man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple. There I saw a stream flowing eastward from beneath the Temple threshold. This stream then passed to the right of the altar on its south side. 2The man brought me outside the wall through the north gateway and led me around to the eastern entrance. There I could see the stream flowing out through the south side of the east gateway. 3Measuring as he went, he led me along the stream for 1,750 feet and told me to go across. At that point the water was up to my ankles. 4He measured off another 1,750 feet and told me to go across again. This time the water was up to my knees. After another 1,750 feet, it was up to my waist. 5Then he measured another 1,750 feet, and the river was too deep to cross without swimming.
6 He told me to keep in mind what I had seen; then he led me back along the riverbank. 7 Suddenly, to my surprise, many trees were now growing on both sides of the river! 8 Then he said to me, “This river flows east through the desert into the Jordan Valley, where it enters the Dead Sea. The waters of this stream will heal the salty waters of the Dead Sea and make them fresh and pure. 9 Everything that touches the water of this river will live. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will be healed. Wherever this water flows, everything will live.
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A place of death.
The vultures circle.
Waiting for his last breath.
Strip his bones.
He’s not here to die.
Those predators are patient.
Desperate to watch him fall in slow motion.
Pushing the last gust of air over his cracked lips.
They’ve already had their way with the wreckage on the valley floor.
People came here looking for life.
Death struck them like a juggernaut.
But this prophet’s tougher than that.
He’s seen hard times, and he’s walked through the valley of the shadow before.
He’s sensing another kind of breath.
Not his own, one outside himself.
Soon he’ll defy death and gravity.
Beckon bones to stand again.
Watch as mutilation reverses.
Flesh and muscle re-forming.
People coming back from the brink.
And it won’t just happen here in this valley of death.
In offices, homes, gyms, high streets, back alleys, job centres, factories and pubs.
The dead will live.
1 The LORD took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the LORD to a valley filled with bones. 2He led me around among the old, dry bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground. 3Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”
“O Sovereign LORD,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”
4 Then he said to me, “Speak to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Look! I am going to breathe into you and make you live again! 6 I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”
7 So I spoke these words, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as they had been before. 8Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Speak to the winds and say: ‘this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so that they may live again.’”
10 So I spoke as he commanded me, and the wind entered the bodies, and they began to breathe. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army of them.
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It’s a gag.
A play on words.
He sees one thing, but it means another.
Like a watch.
An almond tree?
And that means…?
Okay Jeremiah, try this. How about a clock?
Or a vision of a watch?
A smart Rolex.
God’s ‘clocking’ us.
Keeping an eye.
Like a stakeout.
So maybe a vision of a guy in a restaurant then.
Having a ‘steak out.’
9 Then the LORD touched my mouth and said, “See, I have put my words in your mouth! 10 Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. You are to uproot some and tear them down, to destroy and overthrow them. You are to build others up and plant them.”
11 Then the LORD said to me, “Look, Jeremiah! What do you see?”
And I replied, “I see a branch from an almond tree.”
12 And the LORD said, “That’s right, and it means that I am watching and have the power to act.”
(The Hebrew word for almond tree sounds like the word for watching.)
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All over everything.
The sky spattered like a spoilt canvass.
The holy places invaded.
A teenager at home.
They’d battled in heaven, fought on earth.
But this is different.
No hand to hand combat or flaming swords.
This is about stealth, ballads and whispers.
Sneaking into kitchens, dreams, temples, fields.
And everyone’s bricking it.
Of course they would be.
Heavenly warriors have been known to kill.
The angel of death brought slaughter to Egypt.
Everyone knows the story.
But now reality is changing course.
The angel of life is in town.
They will never forget.
Now everyone will know another story.
It will be told again and again and again.
And millions will change.
Luke 1 & 2
11 Zechariah was in the sanctuary when an angel of the Lord appeared, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12Zechariah was overwhelmed with fear. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! For God has heard your prayer, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son! And you are to name him John.
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favoured woman! The Lord is with you!”
8 That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, 10but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! 11 The Saviour – yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight.”
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10. Better days.
Trees of corruption.
Bearing the kind of fruit that destroys.
Greed, self-obsession, injustice.
An axe glints in the sunlight.
Someone’s knocking at the door.
Somebody’s ringing the bell.
A figure on the doorstep.
Tired of the old ways.
Weary of the lack of hope.
He’s bringing in a new day.
The hopeless will lift up their heads.
Stand tall, strengthen their limbs, walk free again.
In the meantime, his cousin’s playing a gig in the desert.
Singing songs of justice and redemption.
Wake up! He says. Sleep time is over.
7 Here is a sample of John’s preaching to the crowds that came for baptism: “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming judgement? 8 Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say, ‘We’re safe – we’re the descendants of Abraham.’ That proves nothing. God can change these stones here into children of Abraham. 9 Even now the axe of God’s judgement is poised, ready to sever your roots. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
10The crowd asked, “What should we do?”
11 John replied, “If you have two coats, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”
12 Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptised and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?”
13“Show your honesty,” he replied. “Make sure you collect no more taxes than the Roman government requires you to.”
14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers.
John replied, “Don’t extort money, and don’t accuse people of things you know they didn’t do. And be content with your pay.”
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9. All the kingdoms of the world.
Right there on a plate.
The complete works.
The full monty.
Everything you’ve ever wanted.
All yours – just sell out.
The good life.
We see them airbrushed in magazines.
Floodlit and smiling on our TV screens.
Lifestyles of the rich and the famous.
They have it all.
They climbed that moutnain and made it and we look wistfully from afar.
It’s only later we read about the lost souls.
The cost of having everything.
The broken lives, the shattered relationships, the bitter hearts.
Seems so sweet.
This corrosive substance.
What makes for eternal life?
5 Then the Devil took Jesus up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 The Devil told him, “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them—because they are mine to give to anyone I please. 7 I will give it all to you if you will bow down and worship me.”
8 Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God; serve only him.’”
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8. A soldier sees a line of command.
He knows how it works.
Issue an order and men run.
So too the hidden things.
Speak and it’s done.
The officer in charge knows the reality.
This is a bigger game.
A wider battlefield.
And one man calls the shots.
Others make attempts, appear to hold the reigns.
But they’re the lower ranks.
The chain of command here goes all the way to the top.
And the man at the top has come all the way down.
2 Now the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. 3 When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish leaders to ask him to come and heal his slave. 4 So they earnestly begged Jesus to come with them and help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, it is he,” they said, 5 “for he loves the Jews and even built a synagogue for us.”
6 So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honour. 7 I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. 8 I know because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this or that,’ they do it.”
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7. Lightning from heaven.
They make a real racket.
More than thunder.
72 yakking about the impossible.
He quells them with a hand.
They’ve seen everything now.
Well, not exactly everything.
But more than they ever expected to.
So it feels like everything.
It’s one thing to see the man upfront doing the impossible.
Quite another to do it yourself.
But he knows.
He knows they can be seduced by the extraordinary, and they must return to the ordinary humdrum of their everyday lives.
And on the grey days they need to remember.
Need it burned into their being.
They are carefully-crafted people, valued, important.
Their names are written in the age to come.
In the place beyond.
17 When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”
18 “Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan falling from heaven as a flash of lightning! 19And I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. 20But don’t rejoice just because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered as citizens of heaven.”
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6. Not just any other day.
Teenagers changing the world.
Old folks upbeat and bringing life.
Children delivering words of promise.
Men and women, hopeful ambassadors.
The day dawns.
The sky bloody and bruised.
Like the man below it.
The start of something.
Revolution in the air.
A pocket of life.
People tremble, mock, despair and wonder.
It won’t be long now.
A landslide of change.
That bruised man has begun a flood of life.
Death has given birth to resurrection.
From now people can come back from the brink.
28 “Then after I have poured out my rains again, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. 29In those days, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, men and women alike.
30 “I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth—blood and fire and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon will turn bloodred before that great and terrible day of the LORD arrives. 32And anyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.
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Fluttering, squirming, wrestling inside a blanket.
The roof is alive.
Is he hallucinating?
Hunger driving him to distraction.
We draw our lines in the sand.
Decide the boundaries.
Define ourselves by our differences.
And God wonders.
Wonders how he might get through to us.
Shatter those principals, those precepts that so quickly become walls.
Sacred cows fill our hearts and minds, our churches and corridors of power.
‘Kill and eat,’ the command comes again.
Before they consume you.
9 The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the city, Peter went up to the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, 10 and he was hungry. But while lunch was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. 12 In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”
14 “Never, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never in all my life eaten anything forbidden by our Jewish laws.”
15 The voice spoke again, “If God says something is acceptable, don’t say it isn’t.”
16 The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was pulled up again to heaven.
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4. For Your Eyes Only.
Poked his head around a door.
A colour never seen, a language never heard.
Life on Mars.
A Quantum Leap from here to somewhere else.
A shot of something better than everything.
No photos taken, no video footage, no 3D movie.
No record, just the tale to tell.
We all have them.
Glimpses of another world.
Perhaps not so epic.
Just a momentary brush.
A smile, a conversation, a chance meeting.
A ‘coincidental’ happening.
Keeping our eyes peeled, our ears tuned, spotting those moments.
Those tales to tell.
2 Corinthians 12
1 This boasting is all so foolish, but let me go on. Let me tell about the visions and revelations I received from the Lord. 2 I was caught up into the third heaven fourteen years ago. 3 Whether my body was there or just my spirit, I don’t know; only God knows. 4 But I do know that I was caught up into paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be told. 5 That experience is something worth boasting about, but I am not going to do it. I am going to boast only about my weaknesses. 6 I have plenty to boast about and would be no fool in doing it, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it. I don’t want anyone to think more highly of me than what they can actually see in my life and my message, 7 even though I have received wonderful revelations from God.
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3. The man from Macedonia.
He blocks the way.
Holds up a phantom hand.
Beckons with his finger.
Looks like a man.
Talks like God.
Hunches, nudges, voices in the dark.
Sometimes hearing that voice is like trying to hear snow falling.
Sometimes it’s like the wind or hail, thunder in the sky.
A tap on the shoulder.
A whisper in the night.
And sometimes it’s in a dream.
A stranger steps up to the mic.
Calls your name, waves to you from the ghostly spotlight.
This is the way – walk in it.
6 Next Paul and Silas travelled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had told them not to go into the province of Asia at that time. 7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed for the province of Bithynia,but again the Spirit of Jesus did not let them go. 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the city of Troas.
9 That night Paul had a vision. He saw a man from Macedonia in northern Greece, pleading with him, “Come over here and help us.” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, for we could only conclude that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.
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2. A man caught in the headlights of a million cars.
His voice thundering – the sound of firework night.
A figure ablaze.
Face shining like the sun.
Perfection without airbrushing.
Just a dull Monday morning.
A man stuck on an island.
Sits down for coffee.
Drinks, scowls, leaps out of his skin.
Like a blaze of machine gun fire a voice slams him between his shoulder blades.
He turns and he sees what no man should see.
The end of everything and the maker of it all.
He falls on his face, coffee spilling, splashing back across his body as the cup bounces off a nearby rock in slow motion.
It’s all over. He’s dead. He knows he is.
He must be, surely.
12 When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. 13 And standing in the middle of the lampstands was the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. 14His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were bright like flames of fire. 15 His feet were as bright as bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. 16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was as bright as the sun in all its brilliance.
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1. A world without problems.
Utopia, Eldorado, Atlantis.
A place of perfection.
Wonder creativity laughter purpose.
Life in all its fullness.
Restoration in our being.
The moon, Mars, other worlds.
A place where we can start again.
A city, a garden, a planet untouched by disasters, recession and war.
The search goes on.
For that which we lost.
Where people don’t starve in the shadow of food mountains.
Where cruelty is not even a distant memory.
Where harmony, respect and wonder dominate the day.
The cosmos restored, sanity pulled from that chest in the cellar and dusted down.
No more tears, no more pain, no more death or sorrow.
A new world order.
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband.
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.”
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega – the Beginning and the End.