Here’s a a cool new book:
STEPHENS, MARK B.
Annihilation or Renewal?. The Meaning and Function of New Creation in the Book of Revelation
WUNT II 307. Tuebingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2011.
Mark B. Stephens investigates the cosmic eschatology of Revelation, with a particular focus on the question of continuity and discontinuity between the present and future world. Key background texts are examined for their influence, including selected traditions from the Hebrew Bible, Second Temple apocalyptic texts, and the literature of early Christianity. The centrepiece of the analysis is an integrated exploration of the topic throughout the entirety of Revelation. Drawing upon a range of methodologies, the author shows that the imagery and auditions of Revelation work together to communicate both judgement upon the present order of creation, and yet at the same time the eschatological renewal of all things. In particular, the eschaton is depicted in terms of a transfer of sovereignty over the earth, with the eschatological arrival of God’s throne bringing about the displacement of the present “destroyers of the earth” (Rev 11:18).
Thus, it is our conclusion that the imagery and auditions of Revelation work together to communicate both judgement upon the present order of creation, and yet at the same time the eschatological renewal of all things. In terms of specifics, John’s scenario for the future involves the systematic removal of earth’s “destroyers” (human and angelic), the comprehensive elimination of the chaotic sea, and the abolition of death. In their stead, we find a world filled with the presence of God, whose arrival brings about a merger between heaven and earth, and a harmonious unity between nature and culture. Yet the precision we moderns might seek in understanding exactly how “all things” (τὰ πάντα) persist, and the degree of transformation that occurs, cannot be answered with the technical accuracy of a lab report. For John, whilst the outskirts of the new creation could be described, fullness of detail was a reality that could only be experienced rather than expressed. It was enough for him to depict the truth that God would one day bring his eschatological reign to the earth, displacing the corrupt destroyers, and enabling creation to reach its eschatological goal.