Universal Renovation [10-16-22]

Updated: Oct 27

Have you ever tried to describe something that felt a little bit beyond words? It could be the first time you fell in love. Or when your child was born. It could even be something emotionally opposite…what it felt like when a loved one died. There are many moments and experiences we have trouble putting into words.


Consumer marketing, on the other hand, takes the mundane and ordinary, and dresses it up, so we'll part with hard-earned dollars for something we don't really need. I remember the ad campaign for the Mounds candy bar:

"Indescribably Delicious"

Oh, really? It tasted like any other mass-produced cocoanut based chocolate confection. The original slogan was created when Mounds ran a contest to come up with the best two words to sell the candy. Leon Weiss, who came up with the slogan, won $10.


Today, we are truly in indescribable territory. John is ushered into a vision

of the new heaven and the new earth. One of the things to remember is John is doing something of utmost difficulty. How do you describe heaven? How do you describe what it will be like to worship in the presence of Jesus Christ?


Let's look at the first four verses of chapter twenty-one:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”


We'd be wise not to take the New Jerusalem as an actual city. Instead,

think of it as symbolic of the church in its perfected and eternal state. Remember Jesus and his description of heaven as a home with many rooms. He was simply trying to help our underachieving brains grasp something huger than we could ever imagine. The point is, Jerusalem is the site of the temple, the place where the Eternal Presence of God dwells. It is the heart of worship.


Think of it this way. In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Paul says, "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple." In other words, the people of God form the temple where God dwells. Here, in Revelation 21, the people of God form the temple where God lives. The place is a people. People are the church. We are not a voluntary organization created by human beings. We are a gathering of devoted followers of Jesus Christ initiated by God and given by God.


The New Jerusalem is the church come down from heaven ready to meet

her bridegroom, who is Jesus, the One who died for her. Verse three gets us to the almost unfathomable truth of the New Jerusalem. The word translated, "dwelling place," skene, is intentionally closely related to the Hebrew, Shekinah, which literally means the presence and glory of God. The Gospel of John gives us a glimpse of this promise when he says that the word became flesh and tabernacled {eskenosen} among people so that they saw his glory, the glory of the One and Only.


Here is the absolute beauty of this section. We know that sin cannot exist in the presence of the One, True, and Holy God. Heaven and sin cannot coexist. I would love to see that creatively done on a bumper sticker. Anyway, when John writes that the tabernacle of God is with us, he is saying that God in His glorious presence has come to dwell with us. We will be eternally in the presence of the One, True, and Holy God because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Because your name has been written in the Lamb's Book of Life, the Creator of the universe is going to be with you forever.


And what is the upshot of all these wonderfully beautiful things happening

in Revelation 21? Verse four gives us the best possible outcome. It's something you might want to write down:

Abolished forever are the debilitating effects of sin.

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes."


Amen?


Two weeks ago, we talked about how the expected return of Jesus Christ fills us with joy. As I observed, "Every devoted follower of Jesus Christ who embraces the expected return of Jesus Christ has great joy, and the church has great joy. We have brighter hope about the future. We have profound endurance in times tumult, turmoil, and trouble. Jesus will return. History will come to an end." Devoted followers of Jesus Christ are not downcast or cynical or discouraged. Because we know chapter twenty-one is coming, we awake every morning with joy in our hearts and we go to sleep every night thanking God for the joy that's in our hearts.


Here in this life we get glimpses and undercurrents of the fullness of gladness and joy. Here in verse four is its fulfillment. Isaiah 35:10 promises, "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." While there is sorrow and sadness and hardship in this life, that doesn't tell the whole story. Because of the promise of verse four, even in the whirlwind of sorrow or sadness or hardship, we will not lose our joy. Gladness and joy will be by our side. And then, as verse four promises, gladness and joy will overtake us. How beautiful is that?


Speaking of beauty, let's now look at verses five through twenty-one:

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And 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 from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed - 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 on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.


These are such lovely descriptions.


We can sum up the first section with two things you might want to write down, connected with a Scripture passage.


First:

THOSE WHO REMAIN CONSTANT IN THEIR FAITH, NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS IN LIFE, WILL BE WITH CHRIST FOREVER.

It's as simple as that. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” {John 4:13-14}

Second:

THOSE WHO DENY CHRIST BY FOLLOWING THE BEAST HAVE NO PLACE IN THE FAMILY OF GOD.

As Isaiah 65:17 promises, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind." In other words, all the bad, sinful garbage from a broken world will be gone and forgotten from the new creation.


Before we move on to the final verses of chapter twenty-one, there's something we need to remember. The physical descriptions of the new Jerusalem should not be taken literally. How does it capture your imagination? The city is magnificent beyond description. Don't forget. This is the eternal dwelling place of God and His people. How can we begin to understand that? These verses are an attempt to break free from our limitations in order to imperfectly describe what is absolute perfection. It does a beautiful job.


Let's wrap things up with verses twenty-two through twenty-seven:

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty

and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day - and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.


So here we are. What is heaven like? Here's a simple description you might want to write down. Heaven is…

ABSOLUTE, ETERNAL BLISS AND UNDIMINISHED JOY.

We were lead to this truth back in verse four. No crying…no tears…no mourning…no pain…all evil and wickedness has been annihilated. All things are made new. I'm thinking here about a parable Jesus told in Matthew 25. Its refrain is wonderful in its simplicity…enter into the joy of your Lord. That is the dominating character of heaven…unending joy.


So, when verse twenty-seven says nothing unclean will enter it, it means

that the wicked and deceitful will not be there. Only those whose names have been written down in the Lamb's Book of Life will enter the New Jerusalem. The sanctity of the holy city was preserved from before the foundation of the world when God wrote our names in the Lamb's Book of Life. God, in His Sovereign Holiness, is the foundation of our eternal joy.


Let's Pray:

OUR MOST GLORIOUS GOD, WE THANK YOU FOR THE PROMISE OF EXHILARATING HAPPINESS THAT KNOWS NO BOUNDS. THANK YOU FOR GLIMPSES OF THAT HAPPINESS IN THIS LIFE. WE ARE OVERWHELMED AT SUCH MERCY AND KINDNESS, BOTH IN THIS LIFE AND IN THE LIFE TO COME. GIVE US LOVE FOR THOSE WHO NEED TO HEAR THIS MESSAGE. AND KEEP US FAITHFUL TO YOU, EACH OTHER, AND THE WORK YOU ARE DOING THROUGH OUR CHURCH. IN CHRIST'S NAME. AMEN.