August 23, 2018 • Life for Leaders
“[H]e will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
So far, we have been prayerfully engaging with John’s vision of the new heaven and new earth as found in Revelation 21. In his vision, the holy city, that is, the new Jerusalem, comes down from heaven. God dwells in the city among human beings and is fully present with them. Moreover, in verse 4 we learn that God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
This verse echoes the prophecies of Isaiah. For example, consider the situation of those who “enter Zion” in God’s future: “Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 35:10). The day will come when God will “swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces” (25:8). Following Isaiah, John foresees the time when these prophecies will be realized. Expressions of sadness will disappear. That which causes mourning—death and pain—will be abolished.
As I reflect on Revelation 21:4, I’m struck by the tenderness and intimacy of God wiping away every tear. This isn’t just some heavenly zap that makes it all better. Rather, in the image of God wiping away every tear, we sense a deep tenderness and personal care. I’m reminded of when I was a young boy and haunted by nightmares. My mother would pick me up out of bed and carry me to a rocking chair, where she would comfort me. Safe in her arms, my tears would be wiped away. In John’s vision, that is how God will one day be to us.
I long for that day, and I expect you do too. We long for the day when children will no longer stand by helplessly as their parents die from cancer. We long for the day when parents will no longer weep and wail because their children have been killed in senseless shootings, the victims of violence, injustice, and prejudice. We long for the day when all the things that cause us to mourn will disappear because God has made the new heaven and the new earth.
According to John, our longing isn’t just wishful thinking. Rather, what our hearts desire will come to pass in God’s future. In the meanwhile, we do whatever we can to live into that future now, however incompletely. We strive to remove the causes of mourning by fighting disease, injustice, and violence. We imitate our Lord by being people who embrace those who grieve, holding them and wiping away their tears. We offer hope in a world increasingly weighed down by fear and cynicism. We are sustained in our kingdom work, not because our lives are free from pain, and not because we can always make things better, but because we look to the future, knowing that the God who will wipe away every tear is with us now.
Something to Think About:
When you read Revelation 21:4, how do you respond? What is stirred within you by this verse?
Can you think of a time in your life when God comforted you through the loving care of others?
In what ways can you offer the comfort of God to others?
Gracious God, thank you for the hope of the future. Thank you for the vision of a time when you will wipe away our tears, when death and pain will be no more.
Though we are not yet in that time, we also thank you for the ways you comfort us now. Your presence and love sustain us and encourage us when we are hurting.
Help us, dear Lord, to be to others as you are to us. May we learn to wipe away every tear. May we open our hearts to those who grieve, offering genuine love and faithful presence, not shallow words or easy answers. Use us, Lord, to bring your comfort to those who are mourning. Amen.
This post was originally published on April 14, 2016.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Future in the Lord’s Supper
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.