Some years back, a dreamer named John invited people to Imagine a world where there’s no country, nothing to kill or die for, no need for greed or hunger – and no religion too. Then, a couple thousand years later, one of the Beatles wrote an awesome song about the same thing.
Have you ever noticed that the idyllic world John Lennon dreamed about in his iconic ballad Imagine bears a striking resemblance to the post-restoration world that the Apostle John wrote about in the last few chapters of Revelation?
Here’s what I mean:
John of Liverpool: ‘Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try’ – Imagine 1:1-2
John of Patmos: ‘Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.’ – Revelation 21:1
On Suffering, Hunger and Sharing:
John of Liverpool: ‘No need for greed or hunger: a brotherhood of man’ – Imagine 4:3-4
John of Patmos: ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”’ – Revelation 21:4
John of Patmos: ‘To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.’ – Revelation 21:6b
John of Patmos: ‘On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.’ – Revelation 22:2b
John of Liverpool: ‘Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.’ – Imagine 2:4-5
John of Patmos: ‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’ – Revelation 21:3
John of Patmos: ‘I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.’ – Revelation 21:22
On Opting In:
John of Liverpool: ‘I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.’ – Imagine 5:3-4
John of Patmos: ‘The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.’ – Revelation 22:17
I’m sure this clumsy, conveniently edited, high-level comparison will feel a little like heresy to members of both of my religions – rock n’ roll and Christianity – but I think there’s some Truth here, too.
Now, our two Johns have decidedly different emphases, to be sure. Lennon imagines a world where humanity has the capacity to put aside its differences and establish a peaceful, beautiful society ruled by harmony and peace, under its own steam. The Apostle John’s vision relies utterly on God’s ability and willingness to do all of the heavy lifting – implicitly acknowledging that we could never achieve this on our own.
Both visions note that it’s up to each of us as individuals to opt into their respective realities, and they both point to a table that is open to all. But Lennon’s lyrics seem to suggest that the brotherhood of man will wait patiently – and elusively – until we all get with the program. The Apostle John, meanwhile, makes it clear that while God is patient, He loves us too much to wait for humanity to get its act together before He makes all things new. This means there is an expiration date on His offer – and if we don’t opt in soon, He will build His new heaven and new earth without us.
But I think there’s enough similarity and overlap to suggest that on some level, and to some extent, John and John were on the same page here. And I think it’s kind of awesome how God Did That.
The difference for me is that what John of Liverpool imagined, John of Patmos foretold. Revelation isn’t a pipe dream, it’s a prophecy. It’s not a pie in the sky, it’s a promise.
And for that, I am grateful to the God who, according to Ephesians 3:20, can do immeasurably more than we can ask or Imagine.
Peace be with you.