New Life (Revelation 21:1-22:5)

            Revelation 21 explains the deep emotion behind Mother’s Day. Today is filled with a myriad of emotions. There are new mothers who are hopefully expecting their first child and wake up today feeling light on their toes while the are other mothers who remember losing a child through miscarriage or a tragic early death. There are mothers who love their relationship with their children and believe motherhood is their purpose for life while there are others who long to be reunited with their children after certain events have caused a fracture in relationship.  Some mothers feel guilty today as they are confronted with their own inadequacies and regrets. Some of you are gripped with joy as you think of your own mothers. And yet others of you are filled with sadness and deep grief because your mother is no longer living and there is a hole in your life you acutely feel today. Mother’s Day is filled with deep emotion and Revelation 21 explains why.

            Revelation 21 is destination of the Bible since Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve’s sinful rebellion cursed this world. All the deep grief and sadness today is because this world is cursed. This creation was subjected to bondage of corruption in the Fall. All the deep joy and delight today is because this world will not always be cursed. There is coming day when God will come and bring paradise with him. Every sweet moment with your family and every new life that is brought into this world is a dim reflection of what is to come. The deep emotion of loss and joy that is intensified today is explained in Revelation 21. Romans 8 helps us see how our sufferings and our joys relate to the God’s promise of heaven. Romans 8:18-25,

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

The whole creation groans in pain as it looks forward to its new birth. All our suffering is explained in the Fall. This world is cursed and long for “our labor” here to end. And yet, all our joy is explained in the Hope of Christ’s coming. We get glimpses of what awaits us when we see life as it is meant to be.

            One of my prayers for our congregation is that we will be the aroma of life to all who gather. The way we love each other, forgive each other, laugh with each other, love each other, encourage each other and delight in God with each other will give people a taste of what awaits those who belong to Jesus. My prayer is that our church will be the aroma of heaven that draws people unto God.

            Today my heart rejoices with mothers as my heart rejoices with those who think of their mothers. At the same time, my heart grieves with mothers as my heart grieves with those who think of their mothers. Joy and sadness is our lot until Revelation 21 becomes sight.

New Life on Earth

            The church in Asia is suffering and oppressed. They have been marginalized in their communities and are struggling to survive. John reminds them who are suffering that there is coming a day when all that will be over. Revelation 21:1-4,

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.”

Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for his people. And here, we see the New Jerusalem prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. A beautiful, glorious place for the people of God. It will be magnificent.

            Revelation 21:4 is a powerful verse of promise. God, “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.” I taught my youngest how to ride her bike without training wheels yesterday. Of course, there were tears. Tears of fear. Tears of pain. And as her dad, I was able to take my big hands and wipe the tears from her face and say it will be ok. What a privilege to wipe the tears from her eyes. Beloved, God longs to take his big hands and wipe every tear from your eye. He wants to remove everything that causes pain and sadness in your life. He will take Death and throw into the lake of fire. The curse will no longer have its victories in your life. God promises perfection.

            Think of bride and how glorious she looks as she walks down the aisle then think of a sunrise coming up over water with slight breeze hitting your face. It is glorious. God offers a new life on earth. I say on earth, because heaven in its final state will be more like earth then not like earth. Some believe heaven to be a place where we will float around on clouds without bodies. The Bible says we are not going to live up in heaven, but that heaven will come down here. God is going to make all things new. He is going to purify this earth of all its deficiencies and impurities and allow us to experience a cursed free world for all time. Here this promised from Isaiah (Is. 65:17-25),

17 “For behold, I create new heavens

and a new earth,

and the former things shall not be remembered

or come into mind.

18 But be glad and rejoice forever

in that which I create;

for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,

and her people to be a gladness.

19 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.

20 No more shall there be in it

an infant who lives but a few days,

or an old man who does not fill out his days,

for the young man shall die a hundred years old,

and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.

21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;

they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

22 They shall not build and another inhabit;

they shall not plant and another eat;

for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,

and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

23 They shall not labor in vain

or bear children for calamity,

for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,

and their descendants with them.

24 Before they call I will answer;

while they are yet speaking I will hear.

25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;

the lion shall eat straw like the ox,

and dust shall be the serpent’s food.

They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain,”

says the Lord.

Do you get the picture of how glorious heaven will be?

But if that is all you think of heaven, you have missed the story of the whole Bible.

New Life with God

            The most important verses in Revelation 21 are not the verses that describe what heaven will be like but are those that describe who we will be with. Revelation 21:3, “And behold 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.” Heaven is glorious because we will be with God. This promise fills the pages of Scripture,

Genesis 17:7-8, “7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

Lev. 26:11-12, “11 I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.”

2 Samuel 7:13-14, “13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.”

Jer. 31:33, “33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Ezek. 37:26-27, “26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Zech. 8:8, “and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”

Revelation 22:3-4, “3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

When we think of heaven without thinking of God, we miss the point of the Bible and miss the point of the gospel.

            Jesus came to mediate the presence God. He became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus became God with us, our Immanuel. We are sinners deserving of eternal fire. We deserve outer darkness, but Jesus came to our light. Jesus, the righteous, died for us, the unrighteous, to bring us to God. The goal of the gospel is not merely salvation from us, but salvation to God. We are allowed in the presence of God because Jesus died for us. We have been given new garments for the wedding feast. If our hearts long to be in heaven because of heaven’s beauty and to be free of suffering, without a longing to see Jesus, we may never enter it.

            Friend, the only way we will go to heaven if our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. The book of life belongs to the Lamb. Do you belong to the Lamb? Do you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Do you long to fellowship with Jesus? Do you desire to live for his glory? Do you rejoice in his blood shed for you? Do you belong to the Lamb?

            One way you know you belong to the Lamb is that Jesus Christ is the most exciting thing about heaven. John Piper poignantly asks,

The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have Heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with Heaven, if Christ was not there?[1]

What would you say? Not what you think you should say, but truly, what would say? Friend, there are times we want the blessings of Christ without Christ himself. Let us strive with all vigilance to hold fast to Christ. To hold fast to the One who died for us. To Hold fast to the One who saves us by his grace. And let us long for heaven because we get to see Christ.

            When we have our hearts set on Christ, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

New Life for Conquerors

            If you poll most Americans, they will believe that there is a heaven and that they will go there when they die.[2] Most people love the first paragraph of Revelation 21, but most do not read the next one. Will you be a conqueror or coward? Revelation 21:5-8,

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.”

The only sovereign God says to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness they will drink from the spring of the water of life without payment. Only to the one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God he will be my Son.

            Remember how each of the letters to the seven churches ends, “To the one who conquers.” Jesus has conquered for you to eat of the tree of life, to not be hurt by the second death, to receive a new name on a white stone, to give you authority over all nations, to clothe you in white garments, to make you a pillar in the temple of God, and to grant you to set on the throne with him. Jesus has conquered the grave for you who believe. And how has Jesus conquered, he conquered through the cross. Therefore, we as his people, pick up our cross daily and follow him. Jesus has promised us a glorious inheritance. He has promised us adoption; sonship. His words are trustworthy and true. Only God has the final word. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

            Will you be a conqueror or coward? The one who lacks the courage to endure with Jesus but follow the world will be thrown into the lake of fire. Will we conquer, or will we cower? Friends, we will fail to live up to our calling. We will sin and grieve the Holy Spirit. But when you sin, repent. Remember if anyone sins while in Christ, we have an Advocate before the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. And yet, do not presume on the riches of his kindness. He is merciful, but only those who conquer through Christ. Jesus died and rose again to bring you to God. Will you embrace him?

            Where are you today? Are you living as conqueror in the cross of Christ or as a coward embracing worldly pleasure? If you are conquering, do so more and more. Trust in Christ; He is worthy. If you are a cowering, repent and trust in Christ; He is worthy. Only those who are belong to the Lamb and are written in his book will have the new life of paradise with God.

New Life in Paradise

            Heaven will be intimately connected with God and with the people of God. Notice how inclusive the holy city is as the twelve gates have the twelve tribes of Israel representing all the Jewish believers in the Messiah throughout history. And notice the wall of the city with twelve foundations representing the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The people of God before Christ and the people of God after Christ believed in the same salvation, had the same hope in the same Savior. All belong to Lamb. Revelation 21:9-22:5

9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Rather than look at each specific detail of the New Jerusalem, capture a glimpse of the beauty. It is hard to fathom how glorious it will be. As we continue read, allow this beautiful picture of paradise to fill out hearts with hope.

15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

Notice also how central God is to the New Jerusalem. See how there is no need of a temple God will be forever present with this people. His presence is what gives light and peac. And see how John reminds his readers that no one, but those who have been made pure in the Lamb may enter into this glory.

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

In Genesis 2, Adam and Eve were able to eat of the tree of life. When they sinned, a Cherubim with flaming sword guarded the tree of life and made sure no one had access. Notice how the tree of life is restored and all who have Christ can eat of its perfect goodness.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Friend, heaven is worth it. Fight the good fight of faith.

            The good things of this world give us a window of what is to come. Our suffering makes us long for the Day when God will make this chapter a reality. Our goal is not to get to heaven, our goal is to get to Jesus. This past week, Stephen Ratay and I had the great privilege to visit Olin Hollis, one of our dearest and longest members. Olin has cancer all over his body. He knows his end is coming soon. After a good conversation and a prayer, Olin stopped us before we left and told us he wanted to sing us his sing. It was one of the sweetest, joyful, and somber moments. In his big living room, while we sat in silence, we heard Olin sing the hope of Revelation 21,

There is coming a day,
When no heart aches shall come,
No more clouds in the sky,
No more tears to dim the eye,
All is peace forever more,
On that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

There'll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain,
No more parting over there;
And forever I will be,
With the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

 

And as he sang that last stanza, he raised his hand in worship with that big smile on his face,


What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be

 

I hope we all long for heaven like our dear brother; to see Jesus’ face, the one who saved us by his grace. What a glorious day that will be!

 

[1] John Piper, God is the Gospel. Wheaton, Crossway, ____.

[2]https://lifewayresearch.com/2016/09/27/americans-love-god-and-the-bible-are-fuzzy-on-the-details/ accessed 5.13.2018