Go back in time with me to 1920. Imagine a prophet coming to visit your town. He has a vision to share. He has seen the future of communications technology and he is eager to tell you about it. He claims you will be able to have a conversation with people who aren’t right in front of you or even in the same building or city.
You scoff. Is he not aware that such technology already exists? What kind of a “prophet” (you can’t use air quotes because they haven’t been invented yet; tone will have to suffice) hasn’t heard of a telephone? It’s quite amazing, really. You just pick up this funny-looking handle and crank this knob here to ring for the operator. When she asks for the number, you tell her a special code for the person you want to talk to and she’ll ring that person’s telephone. You can even talk to someone on the other side of the country and it only takes fifteen minutes for the various operators to make all the necessary connections before you can have your conversation. See? We already have all this incredible technology! “Prophet”. Please.
The prophet protests. He tells you that you don’t understand. He explains that in his vision of future technology, telephones will be much smaller. And they won’t have to be connected to the walls with all those wires and cables. And you will be able to make your own connections without an operator.
You are still sceptical, but you take his written account of what the future holds and you tuck it away for following generations to laugh at.
Jump ahead to 1990. We have plans to go to a movie on Saturday night and my friend Shelley, who has her driver’s license, is going to pick us up. As soon as we get in the car, she shows us the latest in technological advancements: the car phone! It is a contraption the size of a large shoebox, which plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter. Her dad bought it for business purposes, but he makes Shelley take it with her on evening and weekend outings in case of emergency. It can only be used when plugged into the car, but because it is so incredibly valuable, we can’t leave it in the car unattended. Shelley has to unplug it and carry it around in her purse (which has to be the size of a wilderness camping backpack to accommodate this monstrosity).
You recall the 70-year-old prophecy and think, “This is it!”
Of course, you know that you would be wrong. Here we are in 2012, and the world is abuzz with news of the latest iphone product that is sure to change our lives. Not only do we have wireless phones that are barely larger than a credit card, but we can dial them with our voices, video chat with people around the world, talk with several people at once, and they’re so widely available that every member of the family can have their very own.
Finally, that ancient and fictional prophecy has been fulfilled! Although the prophet did his best to put his vision into words, we just couldn’t visualize it accurately. We thought we had reached fulfillment of the vision many times through the century, but we still didn’t completely understand what we had been and still were waiting for.
And so it is with the revelation of the end times and the new heaven and earth. John and other Biblical prophets wrote down what God revealed to them and we have access to those writings today. But they were limited by human language in trying to explain what they saw. We read about natural disasters and wars and political upheaval and think this must be it. But we don’t know the full extent of what we’re waiting for. We can try to imagine golden streets and pearly gates and fantastic winged creatures, but our picture is so incomplete.
I don’t know how it will all play out, but this I know for sure: there will be a final battle of Good vs Evil and Good will win. Those who have joined the Kingdom of God will enjoy eternity in the very presence of God Almighty, surrounded by the indescribable beauty of the new heaven and earth. I can’t imagine what that will look like, but “Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight.”
P.S. This is not an iphone endorsement. I really don’t give a flying rip about their new release and I’m not trying to say that the 5 is the be-all and end-all of communicative technology. It’s just an analogy. The timing happened to coincide with all the hoopla, so I went with it. It is well with my soul.