This is the final sermon in the series UNDERSTANDING REVELATION and was preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia on Sunday, August 24, 2014 by Pastor Paul Mims. You can hear this sermon at www.csbccl.org
Revelation 21-22One time Spain controlled both sides of the narrowest part of the Strait of Gibraltar. At that narrowing of the two land masses (Africa and Europe), there was a huge marker called the “Pillar of Hercules,” and prior to Columbus’ voyage in 1492, it carried a three word Latin saying chiseled into stone: NE PLUS ULTRA, which, translated, said, “No More Beyond.” Coins, like stamps, can tell us about a country.
They celebrate victories, praise founders, sloganize ethnic styles, and advertise scientific breakthroughs. “No More Beyond” was the standard belief of that time. No one would dare question the prevailing conviction that the western horizon contained nothing new. After Columbus’s discovery of a new world beyond Spain, recognition of the revised outlook was pressed into its coins. Coins were struck with a simple Latin slogan, two words: PLUS ULTRA: which meant “More Beyond.” Coins in circulation in Florida in 1796, still had that slogan! (John Gilmore in “Probing Heaven”)
A little girl was taking an evening walk with her father. Wonderingly, she looked up at the stars and exclaimed; “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!”
She understood more than she knew. As we come to the end of our study of the Book of Revelation, there is before us a description of our heavenly home. I know that I cannot do it justice in trying to interpret the truths revealed in this passage, but I hope you will be able to get just a glimpse of what God has in store for you in the next life.
I. A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH (21:1-2)
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away and there was no longer any sea.” (21:1)
How are we to understand this? Is John seeing a totally new earth and a totally new heaven separate from this one, or is he seeing the same earth and the same heaven made new? The word that he uses for “new” gives us a clue. In the Greek New Testament there are two words for “new.” One is “neos” and it means “new in time.” When it speaks of “new wine” it means “this year’s crop of grapes.” This word is used in Mark 2:22 when it speaks of putting new wine into old wineskins. The other word for new is “kainos” which means new in that it is superior to the old, a new kind, unprecedented. “Kainos” is used in reference to the “new covenant” that Paul spoke of in I Corinthians 11:25 which refers to the Lord’s Supper. So “Kainos” is used here to mean “new in quality” and “superior to the old.” It is the same earth and the same heaven that is renewed to be like it was when it was first created without the pollution man gave it through the ages.
Joseph Seiss in his commentary on Revelation described it like this: “Think, then, what its regeneration must bring! – an earth which no longer smarts and smokes under the curse of sin, – an earth which needs no more to be torn with hooks and irons to make it yield its fruits, – an earth where thorns and thistles no longer infest the ground, nor serpents hiss among the flowers, nor savage beasts lay in ambush to devour, – an earth whose sod is never cut with graves, whose soil is never moistened with tears or saturated with human blood, whose fields are never blasted with unpropitious seasons, whose atmosphere never gives wings to the seed of plague and death, and whose ways are never lined with funeral processions, or blocked with armed men on their way to war, – an earth whose hills ever flow with salvation, and whose valleys know only the sweetness of Jehovah’s smiles, – an earth from end to end, and from center to utmost verge, clothed with the eternal blessedness of paradise restored.” (Quoted from Marv Rosenthal)
“And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.” (21:2)
The question arises, “Is the new heaven and the new earth to be just for the millennial reign of Christ on the earth, or is this to be our heavenly abode?” No one knows for sure, but I think that the new earth and the new heavens and the New Jerusalem are presented here as our eternal home. Well you say, “What about our loved ones who are in heaven now?” The scripture says that when Jesus comes again, “God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 4:14) The picture that John paints is that of the New Heavens and the New Earth and the New Jerusalem joining together. The symbolic language describing the New Jerusalem would exceed the surface area of the earth by over thirteen times. All of it will be like the clean and pure like the Garden of Eden.
Janice asked me this week, “How many more years do you think we have together?” We have often said that we would love to spend eternity right here on top of our mountain in our log cabin. We will not need to have churches then, but the congregation of Cornerstone could still get together and enjoy each other’s company. Such musings as this is why the scripture says, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9) Isaiah said in 65:17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.”
II. WE WILL HAVE NEW LIVING CONDITIONS (21:3-4)
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain: the first things have passed away.’”
This is very descriptive of the way life will be for us in the New Jerusalem which is a synonym for heaven.
“NO MORE SEA” (21:1) I did not like that description of our eternal abode for I love the sea. It began to make sense when I understood that John was likely referring to climate. As you know, the oceans are the drivers of our climate on earth. The climate of our eternal existence will not be the extremes of nature in hot and cold and storms and all that affects life today.
“HE WILL DWELL AMONG THEM” Our Lord will never seem far away from us again. He will never seem unreachable and will always allow us into His presence. This will allow us to have great intimacy with Him.
NO MORE TEARS – There will no tears shed for losing a loved one or for heartache of any kind. No one will be able to hurt you anymore.
NO MORE DEATH – The death of our loved ones is that which we have feared and thought much about. We will no longer have to think about our own death and all of its implications.
NO MORE MOURNING IN GRIEF – Grief is that which is common to all of us here in this life and takes long months and even years for us to feel balanced and whole again. This will not even be possible in the New Jerusalem.
NO MORE CRYING – This means that your heart will never be broken again. There will be no occurrence or person or situation that you will need to cry about ever again.
NO MORE PAIN – It will not be possible to suffer pain physically again for we will have a perfect body like unto His glorious resurrection body. All of the days you have spent in pain on earth will be over and the new body will not be capable of pain. Nor will there be the pain in our mind and spirit that we suffer so much here.
“THE FIRST THINGS HAVE PASSED AWAY” – This phrase was such a great comfort to me when my mother passed away sixteen years ago in her 86th year. She had suffered so much in many areas of life and it was good to know that such things could never hurt her again.
“NO LONGER ANY CURSE” (22:3) The Bible begins in the first chapter with man and woman in a beautiful garden. Their disobedience brought a curse on them and on the earth and resulted in their expulsion for the garden. It ends with the last chapter describing a beautiful garden with the curse removed and now man and woman “have a right to the tree of life, and my enter by the gates into the city.” (22:14)
NO MORE DARKNESS – (22:5) This is a way of saying that there will be nothing to make us afraid. As children and even as adults we are afraid of what we cannot see. These are the living conditions that await us in our eternal home.
III. WHO IS THIS HEAVENLY HOME PREPARED FOR? (21:5-8)
“And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new. And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’ Then He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the “second death.”
The Bible makes it clear that not everyone desires what heaven has to offer and they will go to their death desiring to continue being liars, immoral, communing with the spirit world, and worshipping idols of their own making. They will experience the “second death.”
But those who are spiritually thirsty for God and the life of a redeemed person will be given the life- giving water from the spring of eternal life.
The New Jerusalem or heaven is described in human terms for us so that we may grasp something of it grandeur. Most of Chapter 21 is given to this.
Chapter 22 concludes the Revelation and the entire Word of God. There are four quotes of Jesus in this chapter.
“AND BEHOLD, I AM COMING QUICKLY. BLESSED IS HE WHO HEEDS THE WORDS OF THE PROPHECY OF THIS BOOK.” (22:7)
This is an assurance that He is coming for His bride – the church which comprises the redeemed of all of the ages. His coming will be quick and like a thief in the night when the world is not expecting him. The prophecies in this book indicate the conditions of His coming. It could soon or far off.
“BEHOLD, I AM COMING QUICKLY, AND MY REWARD IS WITH ME, TO RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO WHAT HE HAS DONE. I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA, THE FIRST AND THE LAST, THE BEGINNING AND THE END.” (22:12)
Again He states that He is coming quickly and He will call all of His servants before him to give them their rewards. As Alpha, He was before the foundation of the world, and as Omega He will bring history to its conclusion. It is comforting to know that as the little chorus says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”
The third word from Jesus is:
“I, JESUS, HAVE SENT MY ANGEL TO TESTIFY TO YOU THESE THINGS FOR THE CHURCHES. I AM THE ROOT AND THE DESCENDANT OF DAVID, THE BRIGHT AND MORNING STAR.” (22:16)
This is a personal word addressed to us as His church. He sent the angel of his choosing to give this prophecy to the Apostle John to write it for the church of all the ages. He does it with a human touch as He identifies Himself as a descendant of David, His humanity, and His divinity as the bright and morning star who ever shines to reminds us of the hope he brings to us.
The final word of Jesus recorded in the Bible is: “YES, I AM COMING QUICKLY.” (22:20)
I can picture the Apostle John there on the Isle of Patmos as the visions conclude. He knows of the struggle of the churches as they face persecution. He, himself, is a political prisoner sent to this island as punishment for his faithful witness as a Christian. He thinks of the others he has known. Peter, crucified thirty years ago: Paul, the man with the blazing heart to reach the world for Christ, beheaded by the sentence of the Emperor. And now, I can imagine that he looks up to heaven with his arms outstretched and shouts,
“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!