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A. We’ve been working our way through the last book of the Bible all year, the book of Revelation, and now we come to this lovely vision of eternity, when God will make all things new.
1. Finally we’re done with the beasts and dragons!! The great prostitute Babylon has fallen. The beast, the false prophet, and the devil have all been thrown into the lake of fire.
2. Those whose names are not in the Book of Life have gone there too, along with Death & Hades.
3. There is no more deceiver! No more tempter! No more accuser of the brethren! No more wickedness – even in our own hearts!
B. Revelation 21:1-8 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. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 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. 4 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.” 5 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.” 6 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. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
II. Let’s reflect on this beautiful passage line by line.
A. Revelation 21:1 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.
1. “the first heaven and the first earth” is a reference to the first words of Genesis: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
2. But now that first heaven & earth have passed away. We saw this last week in Rev.20:11 “I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.”
3. Does this mean the planet vanishes and a new one’s created or is this planet reborn & resurrected? I assume it will be a transformed earth, like our bodies, and Christ’s – but I don’t know for sure.
4. Also, the sea, where all those monsters came from, is gone. And no more Red Seas blocking our way to the promised land (Isaiah 51:10-11).
B. Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
1. A lot of us are country people – or suburb people. But did you know that one day we’re going to live in the big city?
2. Again we see lots of symbols here. It’s a city and a bride. The whole book is written this way.
3. The holy city, the new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ — they all refer to God’s people, the church, as it says in Eph.5:25-27.
4. And she is coming down out of heaven from God.
a. It is the ultimate presentation. God has prepared her and now He presents her to His beloved Son.
b. In every culture, weddings involve the presentation of the bride. And they’re all pointing forward to this day. For here, far surpassing the presentation of all the brides in history, here she is — the bride of Christ in all her glory! How her Groom loves her! How He rejoices in her! How He has waited for her! How great a price He has paid in order to marry her today!
(1) Remember when God created the world in six days, Genesis tells us that He “saw everything He had made, and behold, it was very good”? (Genesis 1:31) Well, Isaiah 53:11 tells us that at the end of all His painful redemptive work, our suffering Savior “shall see and be satisfied.”
(2) This is the moment that comes to fruition. This is what He came for! This is what He died for! This was the joy set before Him which moved Him to disregard the shame of the cross and give Himself to death willingly (Heb.12:2).
5. You and I were made to be loved. We have yearned for love since we were born. We want someone to delight in us. We want someone to light up when they see us. We long for someone who thinks the world of us. We want to be treasured; we want to be cherished.
a. And even if we found love on earth, we never found it in its ultimate form. We were never fully satisfied.
b. But at last, here it is! Perfect approval! Perfect acceptance! Perfect fondness! Perfect adoration!
c. This is what we’ve been groaning for – Rom.8:23.
6. What will WE be doing? Thinking about how beautiful we are? Not at all. 2Thes.2:7b-10 tells us that “when the Lord Jesus...comes...[he will] be marveled at among all who have believed.” Just as He will delight in us, so we will marvel at Him.
7. Think about when two people are in love. It’s almost magical. It’s like they’re carried away into another dimension. We use expressions like “they have fallen head over heals for one another,” and “they are madly in love” to describe it.
a. But here’s the amazing thing: God created all that romance, all that passion and infatuation, all that obsession and attraction, so that we would be able to get a glimpse of the love Jesus and His bride will have for each other on that day!
C. Revelation 21:3 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.
1. “the dwelling place of God is with man”
a. They’re moving in together. No longer do they have two separate dwellings.
b. “He will dwell with them, they will be his people, God himself will be with them as their God.”
2. What does that mean specifically? All we know is that it’s going to be magnificent & wonderful – far beyond anything anyone ever experienced on earth. “We shall see Him face to face.” (1Cor.13:12) – intimacy with the Lord more intense, more palpable, more visible, more tangible, more accessible than anything we dreamt possible here.
3. Ever since the fall of man into sin, the relationship between God and humans has involved barriers and separations.
a. Thrown out of the garden and barred from reentering.
b. The people of Israel were brought closer in the days of Moses, but still barriers between the people and God in His glory cloud in the Holy of Holies.
c. Then the curtain in the temple was torn at the death of Christ (Matt.27:51), and we are now invited to come boldly into His presence (Hebrews 4:16).
d. But are still held back by our own sinfulness and by the fact that we can only see dimly, walking by faith and not by sight.
e. But on the last day, the final barriers will be removed, the relationship will be completely restored, the reunification will be finished.
4. This will be the climax of mankind’s existence: oneness with God — like marriage (Eph.5:31-32).
a. This is as good as it gets. This is the ultimate thrill human beings can enjoy, the highest pleasure and fulfillment, the height of human ecstasy.
b. CS Lewis said, “Away with tears and troubles! United in wedlock with the eternal Godhead Itself, our nature ascends into the Heaven of Heaven...Man...a creature whom the angels — were they capable of envy — would envy. Let us lift up our hearts.” (Letters)
5. — “and they will be his peoples”
a. This phrase is found a number of times in the OT, and each time “His people” is singular. But here in some significant manuscripts it is suddenly and strangely changed to plural: “and they will be his peoples.” (See NRSV.)
b. If this is the correct reading, this verse is picking up on Revelation 7:9 “I looked, and behold, a great multitude no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” (No longer is it just one people.)
D. Revelation 21:4a “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.”
1. This doesn't mean that He will wipe away every tear that is in their eyes at the time, but that He will wipe away every tear that has EVER been in their eyes, for He is storing them up in His bottle and recording them in His book (Psalm 56:8)
a. So, it’s more than that there will no longer be any reason for tears. The mourning, crying, pain and death are talking about the future, that’s why it says there won’t be any.
b. But He’s also going to deal with wounds from the past pain – pain He remembers, whether or not we do. Hurt sticks with you – deep down inside – even when specific incidents are forgotten.
c. And this isn’t just the tears which came out of our eyes, it includes the tears we kept inside.
d. I’ve got a lot of tears waiting to be wiped away by my Lord on that day. And as I press on, it means so much to me to know that He is storing up comfort for all those tears.
e. And I know there are many who have more tears to be wiped away than I do.
2. It seems to me that this means that in heaven we’re not just going to leave the past behind and move on. We are going to go back over our lives and deal with everything until all is healed. We will revisit our earthly lives, presumably being given understanding of why things happened and being shown the glory of God in it. And we will see how God was caring for us, and having compassion on us, while we were experiencing suffering or trauma.
E. Revelation 21:4b-5a for the former things have passed away. 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
1. Everybody knows that there’s something very wrong with the world, that it needs to be revamped, restarted, renewed.
2. What many don’t see is that there’s not just something very wrong out there, but there’s something very wrong in here. There’s something very wrong with me & you, not just with them.
3. As in the days of Noah’s flood, it’s needs to be cleaned up and started over. It needs a new beginning! But it needs three things it didn’t get in Noah’s day, three things which are present in the great transformation we read about in Rev.19-22:
a. It needs the spiritual powers of evil removed – exactly what has already happened in Rev.19&20.
b. Second, it needs sin removed from our hearts – which happens when God people are presented to Jesus at the wedding supper of the Lamb: when He “present(s) the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:27)
c. And third, it needs God’s curse to be removed – which we see happening in Rev.22:3: “No longer will there be anything accursed.”
4. “The former things have passed away. Behold, I am making all things new.” I can’t wait!
F. Revelation 21:5b Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
1. It would be easy to skip over this little part, but there’s something very important going on here.
2. This is the 4th time in this book God has commanded John to write down all he’s seeing/hearing (Rev.1:11&19; 14:13; 19:9).
3. One of the important questions to be asking ourselves as we read the Bible is, “Where do I find myself in this story?” And here is one of those places in the book of Revelation.
4. The one who has received this series of visions is the apostle John, of course. But here in these four verses, we see that these visions weren’t just for John, but for us. God commanded John to write down what he saw and heard, so that WE might receive these things as well.
5. And this is God’s pattern. God’s word is first given to an individual and then God ensures that it gets written down (Jer.30:2, 36:2; Hab.2:2; Rom.16:25-26; 2Peter 1:20-21) as He does here in 21:5 – to extend the testimony into the future, to make it last, to make it permanent (Is.30:8).
6. In other words, while John was experiencing all of these bizarre visions, God was not just thinking about John, He was thinking about us! He wanted us to get this stuff too!
7. God could have performed a continuous miracle by protecting and sustaining His word in oral form through the centuries. Or He could’ve chosen to speak through contemporary apostles and prophets in every generation. But He didn’t. Instead, He chose for His word to be written down in the Bible. And He wants us to rely on His word, though it is ancient, and to have confidence that "these words are faithful and true."
G. Rev.21:6a And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning & the end.”
1. WHAT is done? God’s project of redemption in human history. Everything’s been accomplished.
2. You see, ultimately history is a great work of art being created by the greatest Artist of all.
3. Long ago He began it, starting with nothing. And the project takes a very long time.
4. Along the way, there have been many critics complaining about the work. Many point out deficiencies, or insist it’s taking too long. But the artist keeps saying, “It’s not done yet.”
5. And in this vision we see the moment when God steps back from the easel and says, “It is done!”
6. And at that time there will be no complaints or criticisms.
7. All will acclaim with one accord, “He has done it right! He’s done it perfectly! There’s none like Him! He started it & He finished it! He is Master of Masters! We were so wrong to doubt Him!”
H. Revelation 21:6b To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.
1. This drinking-the-water-of-life language is used often in the Bible (e.g. Jer.2:13; Jn.7:37-39).
2. In a thirsty land it is a good metaphor for the grace of God flowing into our souls.
3. But on that day to come, we will drink from the spring of the water of life much more fully that anyone ever did on earth. We won’t be hampered by sin; we will see Him face to face; we will dwell in love with Him with no barriers whatsoever.
4. All for free! Jesus paid for it all Himself! “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy without money and without price.” (Is.55:1)
I. Rev.21:7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
1. You remember that the seven letters in Rev.2-3 each end with a prize promised to the one who conquers/overcomes, each prize describing some aspect of the eternal reward of the believer.
2. Well, when you come to the last few chapters of Revelation, which describe the glories to come, you realize that every one of these prizes in a part of the description:
a. The tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God (2:7 and 22:2)
b. Be a pillar in the temple (3:12 and 21:22ff.)
c. The name of the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God (3:12; 21:2, 10)
d. God’s name written on one’s person (3:12 and 22:4)
e. One’s name written in the book of life (3:5 and 21:27)
f. Bright garments as a reward (3:5 and 21:2, 9ff.; cf. 19:7–8)
g. A bright stone and a luminary, whether star or lamp (2:17, 28 and 21:11, 18–21, 23; 22:5, 16)
h. Reigning with Christ (2:26–27; 3:21 and 22:5)
i. Exclusion from the second death (2:11; 21:7–8)
3. But also this verse, by which the book ends with a similar promise, sums them all up: “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”
a. “The one who conquers” Remember that to conquer means to be a true Christian, one who by persevering in faith proves that his faith is real:
(1) “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 1John 5:4-5
b. And the reward for this? “this heritage” – all that is being described. But also, "I will be his God and he will be My son." Think of the prodigal son reunited with his father. When we run the exhausting marathon of this life, remember that at the end of the race is this embrace in His arms.
J. Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
1. The treasures described in this passage are not for everyone. Some will spend eternity “in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur.” They will not only die once, as we all will. But they will die a second time, an eternal dying, a perishing that never ends.
2. But don’t take this as a list of unforgivable sins.
a. We know from Jesus that there’s only one unforgivable sin, blasphemy against the HS (Mt.12:31).
b. Rather, this is a list of the kind of lifestyles so contrary to faith in Christ that someone who lives this way shouldn’t consider themselves – or be considered by others – as a Christian.
c. In other words, no matter what you say, if your life proves you’re an unbeliever, you’re an unbeliever and your profession is a lie.
(1) "The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in Him.” 1John 2:3-4
d. And this list is illustrative, not exhaustive, for there are at least three other lists like this in the NT, none of them identical:
(1) Eph.5:5 Everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
(2) 1Corinthians 6:9-11 Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ...
(3) Gal.5:19-21 The works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, AND THINGS LIKE THESE...Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
e. — The only two of these which are found in all four lists are sexual immorality and idolatry.
(1) — Written in the context of a pagan culture, actual worship of physical idols was common (though in Eph.5:5 it’s clear that Paul understands the more subtle &spiritual form of idolatry.)
(2) — Sexually immoral (PORNEIA) is also in all three, and often found on the lips of Jesus. But it’s so general, how do we know what it means? Sexual immorality is the NT term which sums up the OT sexual law.
3. Perhaps the most surprising one on the list is “cowardly.”
a. This refers to a full-blown people-pleaser, who only cares about what other people think, and always adapts himself to the expectations of others, unwilling to be disapproved of – even for the sake of Christ. This kind of person can’t maintain a Christian testimony in the face of those who are offended by Christian truth.
A. This world is soon to pass away, but Jesus is preparing a wonderful home for His people.
B. But for now, this earth is where God calls us to live. It is the place of our growing, and the place of our service.
C. But as we live in this broken down place, we hold the promise of new world in our hearts.
D. We have our feet on this cursed, wearisome planet, but our hearts are set on the new Jerusalem, and on the day when “He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.” (Rev.21:4)