27 August - Revelation 9: Heaven on Earth
Revelation 21-22New International Version (NIV)
A New Heaven and a New Earth
21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 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. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
The New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb
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.”10 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. 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. 12 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. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 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[c] in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits[d] thick.[e] 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.[f] 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 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. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. 27 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.
22 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 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 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. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 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.
John and the Angel
6 The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”
7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”
8 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. 9 But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”
10 Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. 11 Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”
Epilogue: Invitation and Warning
12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
14 “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. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you[g] this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
So we are at the end of Revelation and the end of the Bible, and what does it end with? It ends with the coming together of heaven and earth, a crescendo of images declaring that all this ends well.
We love a story that ends well don’t we? When all the story streams are brought together and all the loose plots dealt with. Well, all of creation ends with this reality and our future points to this; all things wrapping up and coming to a head of perfection.
But what I want to show us tonight is that it actually isn’t the end of the story. The Bible doesn’t end with the story ending.
I love the way c s Lewis puts it
“All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
And again as they enter the unicorn says to the children;
The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.
It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then he cried:
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!”
And this is the point of tonight; we are not looking forward to the end of our journey, but the beginning of it. This life and all its struggles will seem like a title page compared to the life to come. So how does John (and the Bible) paint the life to come, how does it paint your story to follow?
Well firstly we see;
God and man Dwelling together
One of the chief realities that John paints is that God dwells with mankind. This is significant because throughout the Old Testament we see the reality of no-one being able to see the face of God and live. A reminder of how painfully far our sin has taken us from God.
And yet throughout the Old Testament, you have a God whose heartbeat is to be in fellowship with His people.
We see this cry in the Old Testament; I will be your God and you will be my people. And John makes sure that this becomes the centre of this image, in 21:3 John writes;
“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.”
Now we must see that this has always been God’s desire; and it is fully realized in this image that John uses here.
God and man will live together: His home will be our home and our home will be where He dwells.
Now for most of us, we see as God is up there; in heaven. And essentially John is saying, when we wake up to the new life God will be here with us; forever!!!
And because of this we see the next reality;
2. The City and Eden
John puts together two prominent images one of a city and the other of a garden. We must know that these images are stitched together form prophets of the Old Testament.
However, we see that we are not going back to Eden; or the garden. The point of creation is not to go back, we are going to a city; that comes to us from heaven. However, the city has its roots and its significance in the garden.
What John is trying to tell us as well as the New Testament is that we are looking towards a restoration of all things that goes beyond what we see now. In other words; there will be a continuation of the things of this world! God made a good world and so is not done with that aspect of creation; however, when he resurrects this world it will be complete; all things will be perfectly in place. Everything will be right.
It will be more real than this world! C.S. Lewis in his book the great Divorce says that if we were to step into a stream the water would simply flow through us as it is more real than we are. In our present form we would seem like ghosts or mirages there.
We might be tempted to try and work out what the dimensions of the city mean and why the different stones were chosen; to put it simply and to avoid all that would distract us from the wonder of what is to come.
We see that is more than big enough! We see that it is more than glorious enough and we see that the things that are precious (stones and gold) are simply that which is used in construction.
Next we see
3. The River and the Tree
He John leans on Ezekiel again of the river in the desert bringing life; but we must see that this flows from the throne of God; the centre of this picture is that life comes from the rule of God.
And this is interesting; for as it flows out into the resurrected creation this rule brings healing to the nations and life and light to the world.
I mean the message of this is too incredible; for when we close our eyes for the last time on this earth it will not be to not open them again, but to open them forever, in a world that is fully restored and fully beautiful, where the very reign of God keeps and sustains all things in perfect harmony!
Where the sun is no longer needed to give its light to sustain light as God will be that life giving light. We will live with him! And He by His very presence and energy will sustain us completely!
This is our future! This is what we await! Not an end; but the next beginning! Where the journey will never grow wary nor the adventure tedious. But we will be alive forever, truly alive forever!
And so to end tonight we end with how the Revelation of John ends…
4. Jesus IS COMING!
We do not make this declaration as a cry of doom, but of victory; as john says in 22: 12;
“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me and I will give it to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and Omega, 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.
The hope of life, church, is in Christ; it is only in the gospel that we can even begin to imagine this and hope for this in its purity! But when we know that Christ is our righteousness and He is our hope then the last two chapter of the Bible are our hearts cry; where we feel we always belong!
I pray you go with that hope into the week and find your hope in Him alone!