Family Bible Week Finale :: July 31, 2016
I invite you turn with me in your Bibles, if you would, to the Book of Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. The “Apocalypse of John,” Revelation (not Revelations), chapters 21 and 22.
The adult class at Family Bible Week spent all our time together studying the wild and wonderful genre of biblical writing called “apocalyptic.”
Apocalyptic literature appears in our Bibles in several places, most notably the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation.
One night, we studied Ezekiel one together. That’s some pretty far out stuff!
We learned all kinds of stuff in this week–probably too much stuff. It’s so complex and difficult to sort through, I’m sure that I thoroughly confused everybody in the class at one point or another.
At the same time, I think that everyone who came learned a little bit about apocalyptic literature, as well. About how this kind of genre works and what kind of a spiritual effect on us it is intended to create. I hope that we’ve all grow spiritually because we’ve spent some time together in this amazing and crazy genre in our Bibles.
Interestingly, when I started my ministry here at Lanse Free Church, most people in our culture didn’t know that word “apocalyptic.”
But strangely, it’s become popular in pop culture...
...mostly through zombies.
A week does not go by nowadays without my hearing someone say something about “a post-apocalyptic scenario.”
What the world would be like if some apocalyptic or world-ending event occurred and what would happen to the survivors.
What life would be like after an apocalypse.
There are TV shows like the Walking Dead.
There are movies like World War Z or I Am Legend or The Book of Eli or Planet of the Apes or even Wall-E. Right?
And many of the video games the kids are playing these days presuppose a post-apocalyptic scenario.
Well, today, I want to pull together everything that the adult class has been learning this week and study “The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario.”
What God says will certainly happen after the Apocalypse.
Not just a possibility.
Not just a theory or a probability or an hypothetical idea.
But what the real God has really revealed about what reality will be like when the end of the world really occurs.
And to get that, we read the last two chapters of our Bible.
Revelation chapter 21 and 22.
This is the very End of a very long story.
The Great Story began in Genesis chapters 1, 2, and 3 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 as we saw back in December, 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!
This is the very definition of “post-apocalyptic” – after the end of the world as we know it.
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. The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario.
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 The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario. I can’t answer all of the questions or point out all of details, there just isn’t enough time, and as we learned this week at FBW, frankly, I don’t have all of the answers to all the questions about these two chapters!
What is our phrase, Class? “I don’t know, and that’s okay.”
But I do want to push towards answers these 3 questions from the Bible:
1. What Will Not Be In The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario?
2. What Will We Do In The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario?
3. What Should We Do About The Real Post-Apocalyptic Scenario?
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, remember, this prophecy is apocalyptic literature. It is full of mind-bending symbols that layer on top of one another and come at you as in kaleidoscope of symbolic meaning.
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 bride that is a city. How’s that for mixed ideas?
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 a 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.’”
Wow! This is what it will be like the real post-apocalyptic situation.
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.’”
For those in my class this week, did a whole bunch of bells and whistles and lights come on when you read that?
We only made it up through chapters 1 to 5 this week, but all of those things were in them, weren’t they? This is where it’s all headed.
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 [1,400 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 reminds us of the measuring of Ezekiel’s visionary temple.]. 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? Does it remind you of the Tabernacle from Exodus or Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings? Beautiful, magnificent, mysterious.
Was there a cube in the Temple?
Oh yeah. The Most Holy Place was a cube. This entire city is the Holy of Holies! 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 in this post-apocalyptic world.
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.’”
[That’s apocalyptic literature right there for you.]
“‘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, again, there is no way that we can play out every detail here. I don’t know what a lot of this means. I have ideas. I have studied, it but there’s just too much here.
It invites a life-time of study!
But let’s outline a few answer to our three questions:
#1. WHAT WILL NOT BE IN THE REAL POST-APOCALYPTIC SCENARIO?
We can get a sense of what will be by what it says will not be.
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 definitely going to be rivers and probably lakes. And maybe oceans. But it says that there will not be any seas.
That’s because 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?
This was the first Family Bible Week without Blair Murray. He loved the Bible and he loved aviation. And I think a lot of us were missing him this week in a special way.
Who else are you missing right now? Who do you love that is no longer here, ripped away by death?
In the world’s post-apocalyptic scenarios, the new world is ruled by death. Zombies roam the world. But in the real one, there is no death.
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. Can you imagine?
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?
One year ago, I had just had my surgery and I was in a world of post-operative pain.
Our surgery list in our prayer list right now is so long. And how many are experiencing chronic pain. My wife is learning to live with chronic pain.
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, 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 the post-apocalyptic world that God’s people will inhabit. No unrepentant sinners that is. There will be billions of sinners saved by grace.
What will not be in the post-apocalyptic situation?
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.”
Apparently, 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. None of that bad stuff on the internet will be there.
And there will not, be chapter 22, verse 3, any curse. “No longer will there be 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!
No Sea, No Death, No Mourning, No Crying, No Pain, No Sinners, No Temple, Nothing Impure, No 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?
Question #2. WHAT WILL WE DO IN THE REAL POST-APOCALYPTIC SCENARIO?
Now we've seen 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 solid case for the New Jerusalem being a gigantic capital city of the New Heavens and the New Earth.
But know that this apocalyptic literature! So we know that this city is first and foremost an apocalyptic symbol. Who or what is the city in Revelation 21 and 22?
John tell us that this is that.
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.
[Many have pointed out that] 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, yes. 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!
Do you remember when we talked about this last Fall during the series we did on work? We will have work to do in the real post-apocalyptic situation.
At least part of our work will be reigning. Chapter 22, verse 5. “And they will reign for ever and ever.” That includes us! 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.
I think there is a Far Side cartoon with a kid who goes to heaven, and he’s sitting there on a cloud with harp (which is not what we’re going to literally do), and the thought-balloon over his head says something like, “I wish I’d brought a magazine.”
No! 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?
#3. 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! If nothing else in these two chapters shocks you, this should.
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 relationship with Jesus Christ blossoms into what it was made to be! This is the ultimate life-changing 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 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 in 1 Kings when the glory of God comes down in His shekinah glory and fills the tabernacle. And 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 THE REAL POST-APOCALYPTIC SCENARIO?
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.
And Overcome. V.7 “He who overcomes will inherit all this.”
We learned about that important word in Revelation this week on Wednesday.
It means to persevere in faith under pressure. To not stop believing. To hang on to Christ. To hold onto Him and overcome or conquer or win by faith.
All of eternity comes down to whether or not (chapter 21, 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. Putting your trust in Jesus Christ and in His death on the Cross on your behalf. And not stop believing in Him.
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.
My class knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?
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 God!
This is our God! This is what our God has planned! Worship Him!
Don’t worship the creation. Don’t worship yourself, your friends, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your spouse, an angel, a false god, Baal, Allah, Science.
You are going to see the Face of God. Start worshiping Him 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 yearn for You!
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!
We may not long for the apocalypse, but we long for the post-apocalyptic world.
And most of all, we long to see your face!
Come, Lord Jesus.