Revelation 7:16-17 and No Tears… on Earth?

(16)  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. (17)  For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

As stated before, this vision is focused on the spiritual lives of the saints still on earth. It is a common mistake to assume that the “No Tears in Heaven” is a reliable interpretation of the book of Revelation, but it simply is not. Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe that their will be no tears in heaven (figuratively), but I don’t believe the book of Revelation speaks of such an idea. Revelation is not interested in heaven, it is interested in the days of restoration (Acts 3:21) during the days of vengeance (Luke 21:20-22). The visuals that we see here: no hunger, no thirst, no sunburn, no heat, and no tears are all beautiful reflections from the Old Testament prophets. These are all old images of restoration and relate to past events when times were hard. During God’s judgments in the Old Testament times, food and water would become scarce. The people would work hard in the burning sun just to gain a little food. What little food that could be harvested would be stripped away from them by the enemies. The only thing that was not scarce during God’s old judgments were tears. Plenty of tears.

“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.” The first part of this picture (verse sixteen), is repeated from Isaiah 49. Isaiah was talking about restoration! Specifically, restoration for Israel after their troublesome loss to Babylon, and their weariness in captivity. Old Israel certainly dealt with a great tribulation, but God’s encouraging words to them is how he will refresh and restore them:

“They shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them” (Isaiah 49:10).

Notice the parallel! God is not saying anything new in Revelation 7:16, these are images of Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity. God is using the same images to encourage the weary brethren now in the first century.

“He will guide them to springs of living water.” This is also stated in Isaiah 49:10, with one variation here: this water is “living water.” The water which Jesus leads them to is not the same refreshing water that Zerubbabel led them to outside of Babylon. This water is much more refreshing! When he was still in the flesh, Jesus spoke of the water which he leads men to: “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” This is another picture taken from the prophet Isaiah:

“He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8).

“I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress” (Isaiah 65:19).

The point is not that a Christian will never shed a tear again; remember, we are not allowed to take this statement literally in a figurative book. The figure is simply explaining that the days of tears and sorrow are over. For these brethren, they have endured a terrible tribulation, the worst days ever! Even Jesus said of those days: “there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21). As Revelation speaks to the end of those days, Isaiah’s great picture of the Lord God wiping away the tears is employed to establish the point that their troubles are over. God has wiped away their problems and, in doing so, has wiped away their tears too.

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