Turn with me to Revelation 21 please, Revelation chapter 21. Now, it is an utter impossibility, as it has been week after week as we have scaled, at times, several chapters, but tried to go through the book systematically - which I think is the best way, because you can get bogged down in a lot of detail otherwise - and yet it's impossible to deal with everything in each of these portions that we've been reading each night, and tonight will be no exception. We'll not be able to look at everything regarding the eternal state, but we will try our best to get through as much as possible of the seven new things described in chapter 21 and the beginning of chapter 22, and John's farewell testimony as he ends the book.
Let's begin reading chapter 21: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life".
"And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen".
We've come a long way from beginning the study of the book of Revelation, entitled 'Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow'. We began looking at the vision John had in chapter 1; and then we looked at the seven messages to the seven churches of Asia Minor; then we looked at the vision John was given of the Creator God; then we looked at the vision of the Lamb; then we looked at the tribulation period that comprised of the seven seal judgements, the seven trumpet judgements, the seven bowl judgements; we looked at the seven key figures of that time period; we saw at the end the seven dooms upon Babylon, religious Babylon and commercial Babylon. Then we looked for a whole week at chapter 19 at the return of the Lord Jesus, compared it with the rapture of the church, and also saw what will transpire at that great cataclysmic event in prophetic Scripture. Then last week we looked at the millennial kingdom, that thousand year reign of Christ recorded in chapter 20 for us, when He will reign upon the earth a rule of righteousness.
But we're looking this evening at seven new things that God will bring in that we know as 'The Eternal State' - and if time allows us we will look briefly at John's farewell testimony. Now chapters 21 and 22 introduce us to God's future plan not only for His believing people, but for the whole universe. Enough is revealed within these two chapters, marrying them with other things in the scriptures - New and Old Testament - to show us that the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has good reason to be excited, because we have an incredible future in store.
Now before we delve into this study tonight, let me make a very important distinction that I think is often misunderstood. The eternal state is different to the place where people go now when they die as believers - now that is important. It's not to disturb you in any way or alarm you, but what we're reading tonight in chapters 21 and 22 is after the resurrection, it's after the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, it's after the millennial kingdom. Now when a believer dies now, of course, they go to be with the Lord - and the New Testament is clear on that - and the Lord, of course, is at the right hand of the Father in glory, in the third heaven, and therefore that's where believers go - but that is not the eternal state, the new heaven and the new earth that is depicted for us here in these two chapters. Therefore, when we tell our children: 'Well, Granny has died and she has gone to heaven', we can't mean heaven as it is written here in Revelation 21 and 22, for that does not exist yet.
Now, whilst the intermediate state that believers are in now may well compare in spirit to what we will enjoy in the eternal state, it is not the same place, nor the selfsame experience. This is a new creation John is bringing before us. God's statements recorded in chapter 21 verses 5 and 6 aptly summarise this fact: 'He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done'. 'Behold, I make all things new...It is done!'.
Seven new things, at least, are mentioned for us in this portion of Scripture. There is a new heaven, then there is a new earth; there is a new Jerusalem that comes out of heaven from God to the earth; there is a new universal order that has never been known before; there is a new temple; there is a new light; there is a new paradise - the garden of God. Verse 6 shows us that this is the climax of God's sovereign and eternal plan and purpose: 'I am the beginning and the end, I am Alpha and Omega'. God created everything, and this is how God will consummate and conclude everything.
Now, of course, human history began in a garden, the Garden of Eden. Here we see at the end of Revelation, the end of the Bible, that human history will not so much conclude as climax in a heavenly city that has a garden in it, like the paradise of God. So, what began way back at the beginning of Genesis will be brought to completion and fruition here in the book of Revelation. Incidentally - we don't have time to do this - but it's worthwhile comparing the book of Genesis with the book of Revelation; the book of beginnings, if you like, with the book of endings.
In the beginning the heaven and earth were created, in Revelation the heaven and earth are destroyed effectively, and a new heaven and a new earth are created. In the book of Genesis we see the start of the reign of Satan as the god of this world, and yet at the end - we've already seen it - Satan is cast into the lake of fire and tormented for ever and ever. In Genesis we see the entrance of sin amongst mankind, but in Revelation sin is banished. In Genesis the judgement of sin was a curse pronounced upon all of creation, but here in Revelation the curse is removed. The right to the tree of life was forfeited by man's sin - you remember the angel with the fiery sword preventing them to enter into that place - but now, in this eternal state, access to the tree of life has now been restored. Man was evicted from Eden, the Garden of God, the place of fellowship and intimacy, but now man in Revelation is welcomed back into God's paradise. Entrance of death came into the world with sin right at the beginning, but we see tonight the removal of death, that great enemy of mankind. Way back in the beginning we have the first Adam getting married to his wife, and here we have in Revelation the last Adam marrying His bride, the church. Sorrow comes upon all mankind in Genesis, sorrow is eliminated in Revelation. Genesis, effectively, tells us the story of paradise lost; Revelation is paradise restored, regained to those who believe in the Lord Jesus.
Now, of course, hymn writers down through all the years have tried to grasp the wonder of what will be the new heaven and the new earth:
'I'm kind of homesick for a country
To which I've never been before
No sad goodbyes will there be spoken
And time won't matter anymore.
Beulah Land I'm longing for you,
And someday on thee I'll stand
There my home shall be eternal.
In Beulah Land, Sweet Beulah land'.
We sang it:
'There'll be no sorrow there,
No more burdens to bear;
No more sickness, no more 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'.
Wonderful words, and yet they don't come close to what we have here by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit given to us through John. So here it is, chapter 21 verses 1 and 2: 'I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband'. A new heaven and a new earth! Now, first of all, before we look at the new heaven and the new earth, there is a question I hope that you are already asking, and it needs to be answered. That is: what happened to the old heaven and old earth?
Well, theologians talk about the destruction of the old heaven and earth, and I think that's warranted - although I prefer the description of the 'redemption', or the 'renewal', or the 'refining' of the old heaven and the old earth. You remember, going back again to Genesis, that the first time this earth was spoken of as being destroyed was with a great universal flood during the days of Noah. Only eight were saved, and one of the most famous promises in the whole of Scripture was the one given to Noah and mankind after, that God would never ever destroy the earth with a flood - and of course the rainbow was given as a sign of that covenant. Now the second time, I believe, that the earth is spoken of as being destroyed, is spoken of in 2 Peter 3 - and you might want to turn to that just now. Second Peter chapter 3, and incidentally Peter refers to that first destruction of the earth in Genesis, the flood - 2 Peter 3 verse 4, and we'll read first of all through to verse 7, we'll skip a verse or two and read verse 10. Verse 4 of 2 Peter 3: '[Scoffers say] Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men'. Verse 10: 'But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up'.
Now many believe this will happen at the Great White Throne Judgement, when the earth and the heavens are seen to flee from the face of God. But the point is, there is this idea of destruction - the Lord Jesus also spoke of it by inference when He said: 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away', heaven and earth shall pass away. Now the question that I pose is: is this destruction in an absolute sense? I believe it is not, I believe it's better to talk of redemption - because if you think about it, the earth wasn't completely destroyed in the flood, it was the inhabitants of the earth and that which was on the face of the earth - life. I think it will be in a similar sense at the second destruction of the earth, it will be a redemption. It will be much greater than the flood of course, but if I can use an example of our bodies: the refining and renewal of this earth and the heavens will be just like the refining, renewal and redemption of our bodies. What I'm talking about is: our bodies are destroyed by sin, the wages of sin is - what? Death! So the reason why, when life leaves our bodies, they decay and corrupt and effectively rot - dust goes to dust, ashes to ashes - is because sin has been judged by death. Yet, though our bodies appear to be destroyed, the word of God would indicate that it is these present bodies that will be redeemed. In some mysterious way these old bodies that will decay if we die will, in effect, be the basis for the new glorious body that we will be given when our Lord Jesus comes.
So, understand that it's not that a completely new body is given to us that does not relate to the old one. It will be new in character and in kind, but it will be based on the bodies that God has redeemed. I believe it will be the same for the heavens and the earth. The old earth, the old heaven will be the basis for the new - because God, if you follow through the whole of Scripture, God is not in the business of replacing mistakes - not that He makes mistakes, we do. But God does not replace with a completely new thing and start with a clean slate, God redeems things - that is the glory of His character, that He can redeem that which is lost. Everything that God created in the beginning was good, and He's going to restore - I believe - this old heaven and earth. God has never given up on His original creation. As one author has said: 'He could have consigned us all to hell and started over again, but He is the ultimate salvage artist - ruined sinners to reclaim, hallelujah! What a Saviour!'.
Now you might also be asking another question: 'OK, I can understand destroying the earth just like the flood, but why destroy heaven?'. Another common misconception about this verse is that because heaven is in the singular here, that it's referring to the place where God's throne is. Now, first of all we need to remember that there are at least three heavens spoken of in the Bible. First of all there is the atmospheric heaven, that is the place where the clouds and the birds are. Then there is the second heaven, which is the stellar or planetary heaven. Then there's the third heaven, which is the residence, dwellingplace of almighty God - that is the celestial heaven, if you like. You can think of it like three layers of a cake: first the atmosphere; then the stars, space; and then heaven itself - and that may be the way it is logistically as well as theoretically.
Now, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 speak of 'heavens' plural: 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth', but here it appears in chapter 21 verse 1 in the singular. So I think that that means that it at least refers to one of those three heavens, and I believe it refers to the atmospheric heaven. Now, why do I believe that? Well, simply because the atmospheric heavens are filled with evil. Now I can see them just now, and they look beautiful - you can't, but I can see them through the roof - but the word of God teaches us that when Satan was cast out of the third heaven, he was cast to the atmospheric heaven and that became his abode. Ephesians tells us he is 'the prince of the power of the air', Ephesians 6 verse 12 says that as Christians 'we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high', the word is 'heavenly places', heavenly realms - that is the first atmospheric heaven, the realm of Satanic forces. It was Job, in fact - the first book of the Bible incidentally, probably the oldest character we know of in the Bible (apart from, obviously, the first parents in Eden) - who said that even the heavens are not clean in God's sight. Now, after Satan's final rebellion at the end of the millennial reign, God will renew not only this earth, but the heaven that has been so marred because of the curse of God against Satanic evil. He will renew the heaven to guarantee that all semblance of evil will be cleared away forever. That's comforting, isn't it?
So, that's what will happen to the old heaven and the old earth: destroyed, or better, redeemed, renewed. So let's look at the new heaven and the new earth. Now, of course our reading shows us, but our commonsense tells us that this must be something better than anything that this world has ever known hitherto, including the Garden of Eden. There will be many changes in this new heaven and new earth. Verse 1 tells us at the end 'there was no more sea'. Now that doesn't mean there will be no more water, as we will see later there is a river running through the new Jerusalem. It doesn't mean there will be no lakes, there may be. There may be a completely different water cycle - but what it's speaking of here is, in John's day the sea was communicative of danger, peril. It spoke of storms, and it also was very graphically communicating the idea of separation. John is telling us there will be no danger, storms, or parting in this place.
Verse 3 tells us: 'A great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God'. God's tabernacle, at that moment, may no longer be in the third heaven where it is now, but it would seem that God is moving His headquarters to the new heaven and earth in particular. Literally, God will take up His abode in the New Jerusalem! Staggering, isn't it? That therefore means that His own people, we, will enjoy communion with our Heavenly Father, with His Son Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, closer than we have ever known or dreamed of! Now, I hope and trust that all of us who name the name of Christ are cultivating communion down here on earth - and it is possible that our fellowship is with the Father and Jesus Christ His Son - but if you're honest, and I'm being honest, it's one of the hardest things to do in the Christian life: to just spend time alone with God, and try and get close to the Lord. But isn't it wonderful, though it's so difficult down here, it will be no problem when we get to the new earth!
Verse 7: 'He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son'. He will bless the overcomers in that day, and of course John has told us in his epistle: 'Whoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?'. The child of God who has believed in Christ, and is overcoming the world by faith, and all that the world means, will inherit this new world. 'There is a city bright', it's wonderful to think of a new intimacy that we will have with the Father and with the Son - but you know, the alternative to that great glory is very sobering, and John is faithful to give it to us right at the end of this book. Those who have not overcome the world as Christians through faith in Jesus Christ are spoken of in verse 8: 'The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death'. Yes, there is a city bright, but closed are its gates to sin: 'Naught that defileth, naught that defileth, shall ever enter in'.
That is why heaven is such a happy place - do you know why? It is a holy place. Now, happiness and holiness don't often go together in people's minds - but there's no happier place than heaven, and there is no holier place than the place where God will reside in the new heaven and the new earth. No more sin! That's the reason why there's no more death, that is the reason why there's no more pain, no more tears, no more sorrow, no more heartache, no more curse! Those are the fruits of sin, but the root that is sin will be dealt with once and for all!
What a happy place that will be. We've seen what happens to the old heaven and earth, we've been introduced to the new heaven and the new earth, but let's come closer: because John causes us to focus on the New Jerusalem that will come down out of heaven from God. In chapter 21 verses 9 and 10 we read these words: 'And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues' - it's interesting, one of the angels that had delivered the bowl judgements of God - 'and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God', what we saw in verse 2.
Now in John's day Rome was the popular city, but of course we know that God likened Rome to a harlot - that's interesting, as Luke 16:15 says: 'That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God'. But the eternal city of God, the New Jerusalem, is spoken of as a bride, verse 9. The reason is that it's made up of God's people, it will be the eternal home of God's saints. As you read this portion, the dazzling glory of the city coming down from heaven, from God, it's beyond our ability to fully comprehend and conceive of. In verse 2, the fact that this city doesn't seem to land on the earth has led some to think that it hovers in some way - I think that's conjecture, because it also spoils the idea that there is a unification taking place here: heaven and earth are coming together, and God is making earth His habitation among men. It appears that this city comes to earth, and as it comes to earth it will be filled with people in their resurrected bodies - imagine it! People who have already been prepared to dwell with God for all eternity!
In our imaginations - and it's hard, I concur, it's difficult - but picture this city for a moment with its fantastically beautiful array of jewels and wonderful metals. Twelve is the number of expensive stones on the foundation of this place - twelve, incidentally, is the number of government and administration in the word of God. It's used 21 times in the book of Revelation, it's used seven times alone in chapter 21. But here there are twelve expensive stones for the foundation of the city, and written on the stones - verse 14 shows us - are the names of the twelve Apostles. You remember Paul told us in Ephesians 2:20 that the apostles are the foundation of the church, here they are: the foundation of the New Jerusalem. As well, the twelve precious stones are similar to those that were on the breastplate of the High Priest - and they represented, of course, the twelve tribes of Israel, and that is probably their allusion here.
We also read of twelve gigantic gates that are pearls. Verse 25 tells us the gates do not shut by day, for there shall be no night there - so these great pearl gates are always open. Its streets, the New Jerusalem, are gold streets. John says they are like transparent glass, communicating untarnished glory and purity. Read some of these verses with me that describe this city, verse 11: 'Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high', verse 12, 'and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel'. Verse 21: 'And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass'. Verses 19 and 20 tell us: 'The foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst'.
Now today, when we want to make a foundation, what do we do? We mix up some concrete, or get a few stones - and we select them not because of their beauty, but because of their durability, their commonality, and their low cost. But what we see here in this heavenly city is, literally, we will be walking on precious metal and stones that today are only used for the most precious jewellery. Do you know what that tells me? The value system of heaven is the opposite to earth, and earth's value system is upside down! What I mean is: the things that we value down here on earth, people walk on in the new earth in the new Jerusalem. It ought to make us think - shouldn't it - that we set our affections on heavenly things, and not on the things of the earth.
Look at the further description, verses 15 and 16, we see that this angel measured Jerusalem and found it to be 1400, or 1500 miles broad, long, high, deep. Now, because of that description some believe that the New Jerusalem will be a cuboid, some believe that because it will be equal length - foursquare, that's what that means - in every way, in every dimension, that it may be a three-dimensional triangle. Well, we'll never know until we actually see it - but that's not what's important: the measurements are reflecting the utter perfection of the city, its completeness, its balance and orderliness. A city that will reflect a society that has never been seen before, a society as God meant it.
Of course, as John tries to depict this for us he often uses negatives because it is very hard to describe what is actually there, so he tells us what isn't there. One of the significant things that isn't there, we see in chapter 21 verses 22 and 23, there is no temple: 'I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof'. Now, from creation God has always desired fellowship with mankind. Of course, it was in the garden in the cool of the day that God walked with Adam - but after the fall that communion was severed, Adam was cast out of the garden, sin and iniquity came between us and our God, and altars had to be erected on which sacrifices were slain in order to approach God in an imperfect manner. In the days of Moses God established the Tabernacle, the tent in the wilderness, and He dwelt in the midst of His people in the Holy of Holies. Throughout biblical history God has dwelt with men in temples made with hands: Solomon's was the first, the Tabernacle presence of God was transferred to Solomon's Temple; but later on in the history of Israel their apostasy caused God to depart from the Temple. That Shekinah glory of God did not return to Israel until the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who would come to be the final and complete sacrifice for sins forever, rise again, ascend to heaven to intercede for us.
Then, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell in the body of believers - and the church, we, became the Temple of the Holy Spirit. During the millennial reign, we saw last week, it's depicted in Ezekiel and other places: there will be a millennial memorial Temple that looks back to the sacrifice of Christ - but here in the eternal order there is no longer any need for a temple or, for that matter, any other dwellingplace for God; for God Himself will be there among His people in a way that He has never been before! The whole new heaven and new earth, in other words, will become God's Temple. For the first time the secular and the sacred will be indistinguishable - that's something to think about, isn't it?
We see in chapter 22 and verses 1 and 2 that John is given a glimpse further into this New Jerusalem: 'And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb'. Verse 2, this clear crystal river was in the midst of the street, and 'on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations'. A pure river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the New Jerusalem! Now, back in Genesis there were four rivers that flowed in Eden, but there's only one river flowing in the heavenly city of the New Jerusalem. Ezekiel, in his prophecy, saw a purifying river flowing from the temple in the millennial scene - Ezekiel 47 - but that's not what this is. This is a river not flowing from the Temple, but flowing directly from God's throne - the very source of all purity.
John says that on either side of this river grows the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruits - no longer forbidden! It speaks of how God, forever, in the New Jerusalem will constantly provide during every season. The leaves of this tree, it says, are for the healing of the nations - that is a figurative way of saying that the people who will dwell in this city will enjoy perpetual health, that must mean something to some of you dear folk here tonight! Verses 3 to 5, what verses! 'There shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever'.
A. T. Pierson summarises those verses, 3 to 5, as the following: 'There shall be no more curse - perfect sinlessness'. The Old Testament ended with the words in Malachi: 'Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse', here the New Testament is ending and the curse is gone - perfect sinlessness! 'But the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it - perfect government' - at last, God is ruling in a true theocracy. 'His servants shall serve him - perfect service' - you'll not be idle in heaven, plucking some celestial harp forever, singing psalms; you're going to be doing works for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. But what a great encouragement to servants of God today: then our service will be perfect, what about that! 'They shall see his face - perfect communion' - in the Tabernacle, in the Temple, there was a veil separating man from the immediate presence of God. When our Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross, cried 'It is finished!', that veil in the Temple was rent in two from top to bottom, and we have an access by the blood into the new and living way - but that's by faith, then it will be by sight. We will see His face, perfect communion! 'And His name shall be on their foreheads' - do you know what that is? 'Perfect resemblance', we shall be like Him! 'And there shall be no night there - perfect blessedness. And they shall reign forever and ever - perfect glory' - reigning with God and Christ forever, 'O that will be, glory for me', will it not?
Now we haven't time to look at this farewell really in verses 6 to 21 - but the long and the short of it, really, is what Warren Weirsbe says: 'Heaven is more than a destination, it's a motivation' - it's more than a destination, it's a motivation. Bright hope for tomorrow must give us strength for today! That's what it did for the patriarchs: 'Abraham looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God'. 'These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city'.
Even the Lord Jesus, knowing the He would return to His Father, it encouraged Him when He faced the cross. You know the verse, don't you? 'Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God'. Yes, verse 10 says we ought not to seal up this prophecy of Revelation like Daniel was, we must declare it - and, praise God, we have done that these weeks. As verses 18 and 19 say, we must not add or subtract to this book, or indeed to the word of God, because this book speaks of what the whole Bible speaks of: there is a curse upon those who twist and abuse God's word. But remember: the assurance of heaven, the assurance of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, ought not to induce us into sleep - but John's farewell testimony to us is that it should inspire us, it should invigorate us to action.
Two things he cites in verses 12 and 14: it should invigorate and inspire obedience in us. 'Blessed are they that do his commandments', 'Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be'. Does the second coming of Christ, does the prospect of heaven motivate you to obedience? There's something else: it ought to motivate us to fulfil the great commission, not just to obey God's commands but to follow Christ's commission to go into all the world. Verse 17, surely that enshrines that: the Spirit, through the bride, is calling Christ to return, but we are to be calling sinners to come to Christ and take of the water of life freely. That is surely, if not the only reason, the main reason, why our Lord Jesus Christ is waiting to come: He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come unto repentance.
Heaven is more than a destination, it is a motivation. You've heard people say, maybe you have said it: 'Heaven help us!' - it ought to help us! Does it not help you to think about what we've been thinking about tonight and these weeks? Can I end with a story I began this series with? In 1952 young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island. She was determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She had already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways, but on that morning the weather was very foggy and it was chilly. She could hardly see the boats accompanying her, and still she swam for 15 hours constantly. Eventually she became exhausted emotionally, mentally and physically, and she begged to be taken out of the water. Her mother was in a boat alongside her, and she told her mother that she wanted to finish - but her mother said: 'No, keep going, you're close, you're nearly at the end, you can make it'. Finally her physique, her emotions just gave up, and she stopped swimming. She was pulled out of the water, and it wasn't until she was in the boat and the fog lifted a little that she saw that she was only half a mile away. At the news conference the next day, she said these words - now listen carefully: 'All I could see was the fog. I think if I could have seen the shore I would have made it'.
'All I could see was the fog, but I think if I could have seen the shore I could have made it' - that's what this book is about: strength for today, through bright hope for tomorrow. Just think of stepping on the shore and finding it heaven, of taking hold of a hand and finding it's God's hand, of breathing new air and finding it heavenly air, of feeling invigorated and finding it immortality, of passing from storm and tempest to an unbroken calm, of waking up and finding it home. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
O our Father, we thank You for that blessed hope that is ours. Not only of our Saviour's returning - and we would say 'Maranatha, even so, come, Lord Jesus Christ' - but Lord, what it will be for all eternity to be with Him, and with You as our Father with nothing between. Lord, may we have had a little bit more of heaven put into our hearts. May it lighten the load for dear souls that are struggling here tonight. May it motivate us to obey Your commands, and go forth with the commission that we may have reward when Jesus comes. Thank You for this people here in the Iron Hall, bless them abundantly now and evermore, till we meet again - whether on this earth or in that great congregation round the throne - to God be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twentieth recording in his 'The Book Of The Revelation' series, entitled "The Seven New Things" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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