December 16, 2012
I decided yesterday to put 1 John on the shelf until the new year. We’ll talk about Christmas next Sunday. Spencer Folmar will preach for me on December 30th. You won’t want to miss that. And then, Lord-willing, we’ll return to Essential Christianity in 1 John chapter 2 on January 6th.
But today, we’re still in a book written by John, the last book of your Bible. Revelation chapters 21 and 22.
I felt yesterday that the Lord might want me to preach on this because of what has happened in our world, our nation, our church, and our families in the last week.
There has been a lot death. This week, our church family said goodbye to Ann Kyler. Steve Pelton’s dad died on Friday. The week before, Don Gulich’s dad died. This week, my uncle Rich died. This week was the two year anniversary of Heather’s mom dying. I’m sure that many of you have a similar anniversary that you are marking this month and someone that you know has died or is dying.
It just seemed like there was death all around.
And then Friday happened. Newtown, Connecticut was visited by a horrible evil.
And while there have been many events like this in the past, many more horrible even, and there will be more events like this in the future, many more horrible, this one stood out and shocked us all, leaving us angry and sad and bewildered and numb.
And it’s at times like that, especially, that we need to hear what God says about eternity.
The way things will be forever.
Because things are not the way they should be now. Amen?
There is no doubt about it that our world is broken.
Our world is not the way it should be.
But that’s not the way it will be in eternity.
And at times like this when it seems so sharp and heavy that things are not the way they should be, Christians need to remind themselves of what God has promised, what God has said will be, and draw our strength from that.
I don’t have all of the answers for those families who are grieving their little ones.
But I do know the future of the world because God has told it to us, and that makes all the difference.
So, let’s read about it in God’s Word. Revelation chapter 21 and 22.
This is the very End of a very long story.
The Great Story began in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 on the first two pages of your Bible. God made a very good world and put very good people in it to enjoy it and rule it and to enjoy Him and serve Him forever.
But in the third chapter of this Great Story, everything went wrong. The very good people rebelled against their Creator and the very good creation was put under a curse.
And for the rest of 66 books, God has been pursuing a plan to return everything to how it was supposed to be...and even better.
And that plan was focused in Jesus Christ. His death for our sins and His resurrection for our new life–the Gospel.
And Revelation 21 and 22 are the End of the Great Story, the last 2 pages of our Bibles.
Jesus has returned!
Jesus has brought us Resurrection Bodies. He has crushed His enemies. He has judged all mankind. He has ruled for a thousand years. He has tossed the unholy trinity of the devil, the beast, and the false prophet as well as death and Hades into the lake of fire!
And now Jesus is ushering in Eternity!
Revelation 21 and 22 is the Apostle John’s last vision in the book of Revelation. It was a vision revealed to John by God Himself. It was a vision of New Heavens and a New Earth. It was a vision of Eternity.
What I want to do this morning is to slowly read these two chapters and point out many details as we go along. And then I want to answer three big questions about Eternity. I can’t answer all of the questions or point out all of details, there just isn’t enough time, and frankly, I don’t have all of the answers to all the questions about these two chapters!
But I do want to answer these 3 questions from the Bible:
1. What Will Not Be In Eternity?
2. What Will We Do In Eternity?
3. What Should We Do About Eternity?
So listen for the answers to those questions as we read God’s Holy Word.
Revelation chapter 21, verse 1.
“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.”
This is John’s last vision in the Book of Revelation. It is a vision of a New Heaven and a New Earth. A new creation. A new universe. The old one that we are in now was destroyed, has passed away. The New one has come. We do not just have a new body, but we have a new Heaven and a New Earth, as well. V.2
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”
Now, we need to understand that this prophecy is apocalyptic literature. Some year at Family Bible Week, I’m going to teach on how to read apocalyptic literature. It’s the most difficult genre in the Bible to interpret.
John is seeing a vision that is full of symbol-laden reality about the future. He says that he sees a city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride! A city-bride! A New Heaven, a New Earth, a New Jerusalem like a bride–beautiful, radiant, ready–a bride.
Theologians call this the “Consummation of All Things.” All things in Heaven and Earth are being united under Christ (Ephesians 1:10). This New Jerusalem connects a New Heaven and New Earth so they are now unified.
We don’t just get to go to Heaven. We get to go to a New Earth that is one with Heaven. The consummation of all things. V.3
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 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.’”
That the was verse that grabbed me yesterday as I was thinking about and praying for the people in Connecticut.
V.5 “He who was seated on the throne [God!] said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ [And now we can read them in our Bibles.] He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.’”
He then goes on with this vision of the New Creation. V.9
“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ [That’s us, brothers and sisters!] And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me [...] the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. [We are, somehow, Jerusalem!] It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”
“It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. [12 Tribes, 12 Apostles, the Totality of the People of God in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament together.]”
“The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length [1400 miles!], and as wide and high [!] as it is long.”
This is a 1400 mile cube! Almost 2 million square miles on each floor. Giving 12 feet for each floor, you could have 600,000 stories in this building. Jesus said, “In my house are many rooms.” Billions could live here. V.17
“He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick [about 200 feet], by man's measurement, which the angel was using [which makes it sound literal!]. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.”
What does that remind you of? Anybody remember when we studied the Tabernacle back in Exodus? This city is a lot like the Tabernacle. It’s beautiful like the Tabernacle. Magnificent and mysterious.
Was there a cube in the Tabernacle?
Oh yeah. The Most Holy Place was a cube. This entire city is the New Most Holy Place! And it is precious! V.21
“The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl [I’d like to see that oyster!]. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.”
The inhabitants of this city walk on gold. That’s how precious the city is and how little gold has value. God paves His streets with it! It’s just gold?! V.22
“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. [Notice that it doesn’t say that there is no sun or moon. Just that they aren’t needed in the New Jerusalem. Because the Lamb is its lamp. And the glory of the God gives it light. V.24] The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there [in the city]. [Remember, God is light and in him there is no darkness at all!] The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.”
Is your name in that book? Chapter 22. Verse 1.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. [The river flows down the middle of New Jerusalem Boulevard.] On each side of the river stood the tree of life [It looks like it’s a grove], bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month [Apparently, there is time in Eternity!]. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. [Just like Aaron the High Priest.] There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.’”
“‘Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.’ I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!’”
“Then he told me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book [publish it!], because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.’ [Time is short.] ‘Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
“‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. ‘I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.’”
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.”
Can you see how this gives us the perspective we need to keep living in our times and to keep living for the Lord in our times?
Now, I cannot play out every detail here. I can’t answer all of the questions it raises.
I can only recommend that you read a good commentary on the book of revelation or a good set of recordings by a good teacher.
I highly recommend this little booklet by Randy Alcorn called Heaven: Biblical Answers to Common Questions.” It’s based on this amazing book by the same title, Heaven. I recommend it highly.
There is a version for children called Heaven for Kids, that answer the kinds of questions that kids are asking.
Last year, I recommended this book, The Last Enemy, by Michael Wittmer. There are still some out on the book & Bible table for sale. It’s the best book on death that I’ve ever read–especially preparing for your own death.
And the last half of it deals specifically with what the Bible says about eternity and what difference that should make to our lives.
I do NOT recommend books like “Heaven is For Real” or “90 Minutes in Heaven” or other books in that genre of “I went to heaven, let me tell you about it.”
Those folks may have had genuine experiences and may have good motivations for sharing them with us, but there is no way to test their experiences, and most everyone in the Bible who had similar experiences weren’t allowed to share them with others and couldn’t hardly find the words to do so.
I think those books undermine biblical faith instead of encouraging it.
I’m not saying that you can’t read them, but I, as your pastor, don’t recommend them.
Get your answers here and from books that are about this.
Now, back to our three questions:
#1. WHAT WILL NOT BE IN ETERNITY?
We can get a sense of what will be by what it says will not be.
What Will Not Be in Eternity?
There will not be (v.1) Any Sea.
“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.”
Now, I don’t know if that is literal or not. There are going to be rivers and probably lakes. And maybe oceans. But it says that there will not be any seas.
The sea was for Ancient Israelites a symbol of chaos and evil. It was an unstable, uncontrolled, chaotic, killer that separated people. We are to think of the sea here as the source of evil. The Beast of Revelation chapter 13 comes out of the sea.
But now, there is no sea.
And there is no (v.4) death.
Death has died. No more funerals! No more funeral homes. No more graveyards. No more sad goodbyes. Death is gone. Can you imagine?
And there is no (v.5) mourning. If there is no death, there is no mourning. No grieving. No bawling our eyes out that we have lost children or spouses or parents or grandparents.
And there is no (v.4) crying.
The beginning of verse 4 says that God Himself [!] will wipe every tear from our eyes!
As the song says, “No more crying there, we are going to see the King!”
No more crying because (v.4) there is no more pain, “for the old order of things has passed away.”
No more pain. Can you imagine? No more suffering at all?
My wife has had new unexplained pains ever since October. And she knows that her pains are nothing compared to what other people are going through right now. Those pains will all be gone.
Our new resurrection upgrade bodies will not suffer pain! It’s beyond imagining. But it’s true. The old way of things has passed, the new has come. No more pain.
And no more sinners. No more unrepentant sinners. V.8
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers [Newtown Connecticut], the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place [will not be in the New Heavens and New Earth. It] will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
There will not be any sinners in eternity. No unrepentant sinners. There will be billions of sinners saved by grace.
What will not be in eternity?
Any sea, any death, any mourning, any crying, any pain, any sinners, any temple.
Verse 22 says that John “did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”
There won’t be any church buildings either. We won’t need to be drawn into worship. We just will worship everywhere we are all the time with all of God’s people.
And there won’t be anything impure. V.27
“Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful.”
Nothing impure. There will be no masked men shooting students in schools!
And there will not be chapter 22, verse 3, any curse. “No longer will there by any curse.”
The curse of Genesis 3 will be completely undone and gone!
Everything will be pure and perfect and back to what it was supposed to be...and even better!
Will Not Be In Eternity?
Any Sea, Any Death, Any Mourning, Any Crying, Any Pain, Any Sinners, Any Temple, Anything Impure, Any Curse.
What do you say about that?
In his book, One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God, Sam Storms writes this, “Think of the implications of what is being said! When we get to heaven there will be nothing that is abrasive, irritating, agitating, or hurtful. Nothing harmful, hateful, upsetting or unkind. Nothing sad, bad, or mad. Nothing harsh, impatient, ungrateful or unworthy. Nothing weak, or sick, or broken or foolish. Nothing deformed, degenerate, depraved or disgusting. Nothing polluted, pathetic, poor or putrid. Nothing dark, dismal, dismaying or degrading. Nothing blameworthy, blemished, blasphemous or blighted. Nothing faulty, faithless, frail or fading. Nothing grotesque or grievous, hideous or insidious. Nothing illicit or illegal, lascivious or lustful. Nothing marred or mutilated, misaligned or misinformed. Nothing nasty or naughty, offensive or odious. Nothing rancid or rude, soiled or spoiled. Nothing tawdry or tainted, tasteless or tempting. Nothing vile or vicious, wasteful or wanton.” (Storms, pg. 178)
That’s what Eternity is going to be for those who belong to Jesus Christ. Amen?
#2. WHAT WILL WE DO IN ETERNITY?
Now we see what isn’t going to be going on, what will happen?
FIRST, WE WILL SHINE IN THE NEW CREATION.
Did you catch what this city stands for?
It may be a literal city, as well. I am not ruling that out. Randy Alcorn and others have made a good case for the New Jerusalem being a gigantic capital city of the New Heavens and the New Earth.
But this city is first and foremost an apocalyptic symbol. Who or what is the city in Revelation 21 and 22?
We are the city prepared like a bride (chapter 21, verse 2), “beautifully dressed for her husband.”
We are the bride of Christ. We are the New Jerusalem. Chapter 21, verse 9.
The angel said, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried [John] away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me...[a bride?] the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God.”
We are the bride-city. And we will shine. V.11
“It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”
We could go into all of the details of this city-bride. It is magnificent and mysterious and unimaginably majestic.
And it is, amazingly enough, you and me! Corporately, perfectly knit together in a perfect community, a perfect society, a perfect people for God.
The Bible began in a garden and ends in a City. A Garden City. Remember the River that runs down the boulevard and the Tree of Life from the original garden that heals the nations? A Garden City.
That shines! 21:11 again, “It shone with the glory of God...”
We will shine in the New Creation. New bodies. A New Heaven. A New Earth. A New Jerusalem. Shining. Glimmering. Radiant with the glory of God.
21:23 and 22:5 says that God and the Lamb give the City its light.
We will shine with the very glory of God.
It’s too good for mere words!
When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.
SECOND,WE WILL SERVE THE KING OF KINGS.
We will shine in the New Creation, and we will serve the King of Kings.
Chapter 22, verse 3. “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve Him.”
Heaven will not be passive. It will be eternal rest. But it will be active rest!
We will not sit around for all eternity. We will serve the King of Kings like we were made to do!
I don’t know all of what that means. At least part of it is reigning. Chapter 22, verse 5. “And they will reign for ever and ever.” That’s us, too! Reigning with God over the New Creation!
God has many more plans for us in Eternity. There will be stories to write and adventures to have, and places to explore.
We will serve the King of Kings. We will never be bored.
If you are afraid of Heaven because you are afraid of being bored, you are afraid of the wrong place. Hell will be the most boring place ever imagined. It will be the same terrible punishment day after day forever.
Heaven will be the most exciting place that is conceivable (and then some).
And the biggest reason for that?
THIRD, WE WILL SEE GOD’S FACE. Chapter 22, verse 4.
“They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”
Now, that should shock us!
Remember old Moses back in Exodus chapter 33? “Show me your glory!” And God said, “No one can see my face and live.”
But we’re going to see His face! And we’re going to live forever.
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
This is where our love relationship with Jesus Christ blossoms into what it was made to be! This is the ultimate love relationship with Jesus Christ!
Theologians call it the “beatific vision.” Seeing God face to face.
And it means the fullest, most awesome relationship possible.
Chapter 21, verse 3 started with this declaration.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’”
This is the consummation. This is where our love relationship has been going all along. Total intimacy with God.
The phrase “dwelling of God” in 21:3 is literally, “Tabernacle.” Now God is tabernacling with men. He will live with them.
He did that in a veiled way that first Christmas, God became man and tabernacled among us.
But this is more like at the end of Exodus when God comes down in His shekinah glory and fills the tabernacle. There is no veil here.
Here, the entire city-bride is a Tabernacle. And God lives with us!
God is what makes Heaven Heaven!
And we will see God’s face.
Again, Sam Storms says, “Wherever you turn your eyes you will see nothing but glory and grandeur and beauty and brightness and purity and perfection and splendor and satisfaction and sweetness and salvation and majesty and marvel and holiness and happiness.
We will see only and all that is adorable and affectionate, beautiful and bright, brilliant and bountiful, delightful and delicious, delectable and dazzling, elegant and exciting, fascinating and fruitful, glorious and grand, gracious and good, happy and holy, healthy and whole, joyful and jubilant, lovely and luscious, majestic and marvelous, opulent and overwhelming, radiant and resplendent, splendid and sublime, sweet and savoring, tender and tasteful, euphoric and unified!
Why will it be all these things? Because we will be looking at God.” (Storms, pgs. 178-179)
I can’t wrap my mind around it. And I never will completely.
Even when we are there, we will never reach the end of our amazement at the glory of God. He is infinite. We will never see all that He is!
But we will see Him.
If we belong to Him. That’s question #3.
#3. WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT ETERNITY?
And the first answer is: Come to Christ.
And come thirsty. Chapter 21, verse 6.
“To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” That is grace. Salvation is a free gift. “Without cost.”
Jesus died on the Cross to provide “the spring of the water of life” without cost.
And He gives it to those who are thirsty. Those who recognize their need and put their faith in Jesus Christ.
Come to Christ. Thirsty.
Overcome. V.7 “He who overcomes will inherit all this.” That’s a Book-of-Revelation-Word that means to persevere in faith. To hang on to Christ. To hold onto Him and overcome by faith.
All of Eternity comes down to whether or not (chapter 11, verse 27) our “names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
And the only way to know if you name is there is to turn from sin and turn to the Savior. Put your trust in Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross on your behalf.
Chapter 22 verse 14 calls this, “washing our robes.” It means coming to Christ. Having Him wash us clean by His precious blood.
If our robes are “washed” then we have the “right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”
So that you can enter those gates. Come to Christ.
#2. Worship God.
In chapter 22, verse 8, John has just tried to absorb all of these visions, and he gets confused and falls down to worship the angel who has been leading him through these revelations. V.9
“But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”
I don’t know how someone could read and study these two chapters without worshiping!
This is our God! This is what our God has planned! Worship God!
Don’t worship the creation. Don’t worship yourself, your friends, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your spouse, an angel, a false god. Worship God!
You are going to see the Face of God. Start worshiping now.
And #3 (and last). Long for Jesus.
How many times does it say, “Come!” in chapter 22?
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ [We’re the bride. We are supposed to say, “Come!”] And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” V.20
“He who testifies to these things [Jesus] says ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
Come! We long for you, Lord Jesus.
We long for our new bodies.
We long for the New World.
We long for the New Jerusalem.
We long for everything to be the way it should be!
But most of all, we long to see your face!
Come, Lord Jesus.