The apostle John had a series of visions that make up the book of Revelation. These visions revealed the flow of human history from God’s perspective. Over and over again John saw evil on the precipice of victory, only to see a Lamb—that had been slaughtered—standing victorious over it all. No matter how great the disaster and how widespread the suffering, it all ends with the throne of God and none other than the Lord Jesus reigning from it.
In chapter 21 John saw a vision of the culmination of human history as Jesus fulfills God’s plans for the world.
‘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 ESV
God created the world to be the place where he would walk in friendship and in fellowship with his people. We see this in his attempt to walk in the garden with Adam and Eve. This walk was, as you know, interrupted by Adam’s rebellion against God. This led to Adam and Eve and all their children being banished from that garden. It was only the work of God in providing clothing for them that offered them any hope. His promise to them was that one day he would end the suffering and pain and would restore them to the very place they were created to occupy.
John saw a vision of this new world. He describes it as a new city that comes down from heaven and is prepared for God himself. Then we hear the declaration that fulfills all of God’s promises: ‘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.’ What was lost due to sin and rebellion has been restored by God. In the next chapter John sees the city has a garden in the middle of it, with the river of the water of life flowing through it. Thus the story of God begins with him walking with his people in a garden and ends with him walking with his people in a garden.
What makes this possible is what happens in between these gardens. Here’s how John sees it.
‘And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”’ Revelation 21:4–7 ESV
He is the Alpha and the Omega—and every letter in between. He is the first and the last. From beginning to end—from garden to garden—salvation is the work of God in Christ through his Spirit. He is the author and finisher of faith.
When John sees the new city coming down from heaven, he’s seeing salvation and the promises of God from God’s perspective. What is that perspective, exactly? Jesus declares to John in the vision, “It is done!”
The word translated “It is done” is one of those do-it-all words. Jesus says, technically, “They are done,” referring to all of his promises, though this is encapsulated in our translation just as nicely. The word can mean to give birth. In Galatians 4:4 Paul says Jesus was born of woman. She produced or brought forth her son. It can mean to manufacture or make. In Acts 19:26 a man named Demetrius complained that Paul was claiming that gods made with hands are not gods. The word can be used of a process or events that come about. In Hebrews 9:15 the author says Jesus’ death has occurred. It happened. It came about. The word was also used of a change in condition. In Mark 1:17 Jesus says he will make his disciples become fishers of men. They will become something they were not.
When Jesus declares to John, “It is done!” he is saying all of these things. It has come about, it has happened, it has taken place. The promises of God have been produced. They have been given birth. Everything has been transformed. “Behold, I am making all things new.”
From God’s perspective it is as if this has already taken place. When God makes a promise, that promise is so sure and so trustworthy it is as if it has already been fulfilled, even when fulfillment remains thousands of years into the future! The promises of God are not given as a carrot-on-a-stick, as if they were always just out of reach though we keep pursuing them. While the fullness of our experience of these promises remains in the future, we experience the reality of these promises in the present. The promise is that the future dwelling place of God is with his people and the present reality is Jesus’ promise, ‘Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ The fullness of his presence is future, yet the reality of his presence is now.
What this means for you is that your circumstances are temporary. They may be full of pain and suffering and sorrow and loss. The promises of God are so sure that God himself can declare, ‘They are done!’ The fullness may be future, but the reality is present. The promises of God are given as a comfort in the present for the surety of the future.
Rest in these promises. Find comfort in them. Cling to them. The Alpha and Omega is also the Beta and the Gamma and the Delta… Though God’s plan in the garden appeared to have been thwarted, we know from John’s vision that we will return to an even greater garden, one that will never be taken from us again.”