“All Things New”
Intro – We live in a time as a society where we pursue things that are new. We love new technology, new fashion, new teachings, new cars. Doug has noted previously that many would spend much more money on a 2010 vehicle than a 2009 with the same features. Because we value things that are new. We want the new iphone with 3G network though our previous phone was sufficient for what we needed. We want new clothes that are fashionable though our clothes from last year are not yet worn out. Many flock to Christian book stores and are enamored with new concepts about God. Largely, we are a discontented people. We are always striving for things bigger, better, newer.
In most of the things I just mentioned, there is great caution and potential sinful attitudes that need to be challenged. But I want us to see that “new” isn’t always bad. In fact, as believers in Christ, we are striving for new – not new clothes or iphones. We are striving for a new heaven and earth, a New Jerusalem. “All Things New.” Please turn in your Bibles to Revelation 21. Our passage will also include the first five verses of chapter 22. I would encourage you that if you have a Bible at home (and is still there) that you bring it with you. As you study your Bible you become more familiar with it and write notes in it and such. Also this allows for visitors and newcomers that may not have one to access the ones that we have in the back. The book of Revelation is in the back of your Bibles. We will be “closing the book” so to speak next week. Follow along in your copy as I read. READ.
The first we are going to look at in “All Things New” is the city of the New Jerusalem. Beginning at verse 9, let’s look at the first point which is the City Construction. We see a ton of fantastic imagery likening the city to exquisite gems. And I apologize to Roland but the bulk of our time will NOT be analyzing the details of the gems. Roland is a gemologist. And the reason we won’t is because I don’t think that the identification of the specifics are the emphasis of the passage.
I find it interesting that one of the angels spoke to John and told him that he would show John the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. And knowing our Scriptures, we would anticipate seeing “people” right? We know from Ephesians 5 when Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives that he uses Christ’s relationship to the church as the example. But that’s not what we get. “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 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,” The angel shows John the city of the New Jerusalem. I believe that the best way to understand this is that the Bride is both the city and its occupants – the church of Jesus Christ, the Lamb. It is mentioned that the city comes down out of heaven from God. He is the source of the future celestial city. We recall the words of John 14 where our Lord Jesus says that he has gone on to prepare a place for believers – a place where we will join him for eternity.
The city has the glory of God! In fact I think that the rest of the description explains this attribute of God. “Glory” in itself is difficult to define. Somebody identifies it as the manifestation of God. Does that help? Not so much. This chapter fleshes it out a bit when we talk of brilliance, radiance, and light. All husbands-to-be receive a little instruction when they go to purchase an engagement ring for their bride. I remember learning about color, clarity, cut, and carat. Impressed? Now I don’t remember much of the conversation now. But I do remember the “aha moment” when I saw what the jeweler was telling me. It made sense. I saw different diamonds and their flaws. And I saw diamonds that were not flawed and wondered how anyone ever could afford some of them…
But I think this is partly what we see in this description of the city and the One who made it. There are no words that could communicate effectively what John saw. He wrote in such a way as to provide a picture in our minds where words could not speak with precision. “Its radiance like a most rare jewel”. See what I mean? Have you ever seen a clear jasper? Or clear gold? I believe that these gems are nothing that we will experience on earth. And I believe that they all magnify or reflect the glory of God. We will see the river that is bright as crystal as well. All reflect and demonstrate His glory.
The New Jerusalem has a high wall with twelve gates with twelve angels. They all have the names of the twelve tribes. The city also has the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. In ancient times, walls were extremely important defenses for the cities. The survival of the city often depended on these walls. They would have supervised gates which would be closed at night so that people could not infiltrate the city in the dark. But we know that at this time, evil and sin will be eradicated and there will be no need for defense. I believe that this speaks to the character of God. He is our protection and this radiates the glory of God.
The twelve gates with the names of the tribes represent the nation of Israel. And the twelve foundations with the names of the prophets represent the church. We recall the book of Ephesians where Gentiles are included in the body of Christ. Paul writes in Ephesians 2.19-20, “19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,” Hebrews 11.10 says “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” 1 Corinthians 3:11 “11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is the foundation of the New Jerusalem. And entry to the celestial city comes through the whole people of God, Israel and the church.
The angel provides John with the measurements of this great city. The city is measured as a cube similar to the Holy of Holies. This cube however figures to be 3,375,000,000 cubic miles! But more important than these specifics is the fact that this measuring communicates God’s ownership and protection of his people. The city of God is forever guaranteed the presence and protection of God.
John describes the walls built of jasper and the city as pure gold – clear, pure gold. The foundations adorned with jewels – twelve in all. This probably alludes to the jewels that were in the breastpiece of the Israelite priests from Exodus 28 and 39. And it likewise suggests the priestly nature of the people of God in the New Jerusalem. The gates are pearls which could be 250 feet in diameter.
Ok. So that is the architecture of the celestial city. Let’s begin to look at some of the other characteristics. So we move from City Construction to the Citizens of the City.
We have already seen that the city will be inhabited by both the Jews and the Church by the reference to the gates and the foundation. The church consists of those who have trusted in Jesus for salvation. We also see the cross-cultural aspect of the New Jerusalem. Our text reads in verse 24 that the nations will walk by its light and in verse 26 “they will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations”. And in chapter 22 verse 2 it says that leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. It does not say citizens of Canada, the US, Europe. Today we are many peoples. We are divided by race, language, culture, and preference. In the days of the New Jerusalem we will be one people unified by Jesus! We will no longer look at each other with contempt and misunderstanding but we will worship the Lamb as one! We recall the words from Revelation 5 when four living creatures and twenty-four elders sing ““Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Jeremiah 3.17 “At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem.” Zechariah 2.11, “And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst,” and 8.23, “Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.”
I think I shared previously that I was at a retreat center that was being shared by different Christian groups. On the Lord’s Day when we met for worship, I could hear emanating from the different rooms of the building praise to God in many different languages. And then I think how beautiful it will be when we can lift up our praise with one voice in one language to our Savior.
Not only are Jew and Gentile in the New Jerusalem and people from the nations, God himself will occupy this celestial city! Read vv. 1-3. At creation, it was God’s design that he would create a people with whom he would have fellowship. Adam and Eve were created and placed in the Garden of Eden where they enjoyed intimacy with God. And you probably know how it went. The first man and woman rebelled against God, sin entered the world and they could no longer enjoy the same relationship. Sin had distanced them from God. We also know that none of this took God by surprise. And he planned to introduce a provision that would one day restore what was lost. Until that time, God also manifested himself in ways that would be his special presence. This is called Shekinah glory of God. The Holy of Holies was the place that was designated to possess this presence of God. Only the High Priest, once a year, was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies.
Apart from that, God largely existed in his transcendence – his greatness and holiness. He dwells on high. Because of sin, no one can the glory of God. Moses requested to see his glory and the Lord permitted only to see his back. Exodus 33.20. “But,” he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.’ 21 And the Lord said, ‘Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.’” He would die if he were to behold God Almighty in all his glory. Isaiah thought he would die when he saw the Lord and he had to have one of the seraphim intervene.
In this lifetime, we are unable to see God face to face. The Bible speaks repeatedly of our faith in the unseen God. Isn’t it amazing?? We gather today because the Holy Spirit has convicted and saved us. Do you remember Thomas? Of course we do! We even nicknamed him “doubting Thomas”. Why? When Jesus rose from the grave after being murdered on a cross, Thomas said he would not believe in the resurrected Christ unless he were to “see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
But Jesus, in his grace, honored that. Eight days later, the disciples were gathered behind closed doors. Jesus appears to Thomas and the others. And he says to Thomas, “put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe. Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!” Do you remember what Jesus said after that? “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those have not seen and yet have believed.” That’s us!! People think we are crazy because we have given our lives over to a Jesus we have never seen and a Heavenly Father who is Spirit. But day after day we follow him and worship and praise him. Somehow we know that we know that we know that He is God and Jesus is our Savior! Praise God that he has given us faith! And we haven’t seen him… yet!
Verse three tells us that God will be with us! Look at chapter 22 verses 3-4. “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face”. To see God is to have a true understanding of who God is and a right relationship with him. Today we strive to know him. We study his Word and pray and talk to other Christians about God. We long to know more about him. We need to know more so that we can walk in obedience and imitate his character. But then we will see his face. Matthew 5.8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” 1 Corinthians 13.12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” And 1 John 3.2, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
On that day, we will be able to behold him in all his glory. Sin will be eradicated and the relationship ultimately restored. We will experience something similar to Adam and Eve as they walked in the Garden of Eden with their Maker! He is our Maker. And verse 4 says his name will be on our foreheads. We belong to him.
His glory permeates the New Jerusalem. Verse 5 says, “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Chapter 21 verse 23, “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.” His glory, his brilliance and magnificence will illumine this entire city.
It is a new creation. It has to be a new creation. Remember that not only are human beings under the curse of sin, but creation also. Romans 8 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” One commentator notes, “If sin had not entered the world, the first creation would have sufficed. Since it was “in bondage to decay” due to sin (Rom. 8.21), however, it had to be replaced.”
Isaiah foretold this when he wrote in chapter 65 verse 17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” This will be a whole new reality, a new kind of existence in which all the negatives of the first world will be removed. All the tainting of sin will be gone.
There is no temple in the city, verse 22 tells us, for the temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. He will not need the Holy of Holies to enter for the entire city will serve as the temple. His presence will permeate the entire city. His glory will be manifest wherever we go.
Back to verse 3 of chapter 21. It reads the “dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them.” Leviticus 26.11-12 says, “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” This refers to the tabernacle. Same language. God dwells or “tabernacles.” Now recall John 1. Remember he refers to Jesus as the Word who is God and refers to him as light. In verse 14, John says that the Word (Jesus) became flesh. God the Son came to earth taking on full humanity – baby Jesus in the manger at Christmas. Next he says that the Word dwelt among us – “tabernacled.” Jesus Christ came to earth and revealed God to us. He came to dwell with man. His glory was veiled.
It is interesting that, God in his grace, allows us to experience some this in the present. Do you know the Bible says that if we trust in Jesus Christ, we become a temple? The Holy Spirit takes up residence within us as a temple. 1 Corinthians 3.16, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” And in another strong warning to the church in Corinth, Paul commands the church to flee to sexual immorality. And the reason that he gives is because believers serve as the temple. He writes in chapter 6, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” God has given us a foretaste of the heavenly reality of dwelling with God.
Those who attain this heavenly abode are believer in Jesus Christ only. And this is my last point – Conquerors and Cowards. Reveleation 21.7 tells us that it is the one who conquerors who will have this heritage. He is the heavenly father of the adopted son. Repeatedly throughout the book is the admonition to persevere. It often comes in the language of overcoming and conquering. This is man language, right? We love movies like Braveheart and Gladiator that demonstrate warrior-like qualities. Now I ask, “If Christianity is said to be likened by these same qualities, why are men largely absent in their churches in homes?” All across North America one of the major challenges in the church is getting men to take leadership responsibilities in these areas. Christianity is not something for wimps. If this is easy and comfortable, you may need to reassess what you’re doing. Living this Book out takes guts! It takes courage! We’ll look at it in a minute. But it is the cowardly who are faith-less. You’re a conqueror or a coward.
Men are not expressing God-given maleness by merely dominating women and children. They are acting out their calling when they are leading families and churches for the sake of Christ. It takes courage. It takes conquerors.
I pray that none of you fit this latter category. “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.” Interesting list, isn’t it? Our culture does not like to include sexual immorality alongside murder or sorcery. “It’s really just a matter of preference or entertainment. It’s really archaic to think that we can’t have sex before marriage or have an affair or same-sex encounters.” Let me just mention here that God has saturated his Word with warnings against those who carry out these acts. Look what this one says. “Their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” And we learned last week that this will continue forever. If you are guilty of these things, I don’t condemn you. I challenge you to repent. Verse 27 tells us that “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.”
Is your name written in the Lamb’s book of life or are you characterized by these other qualities? Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
The Christian life is difficult. That is why we are called to conquer, to overcome, to persevere. And this is why John writes in the opening verses of chapter 21, “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 long for things to be restored to their original intent. We long to dwell with God in holiness and purity. No more death. No more sorrow. No crying. No pain. No sin. We long for these former things to be extinguished and to reside with our Maker. No suffering in this life, however, can compare to the glory we will experience. We have been talking about big picture thinking recently. It is our hope in the character of God that gives us hope in our suffering. We aim for the glories of heaven where we no longer encounter hardship. Allow that hope this morning to motivate you through this journey. Our response song is not one you might expect as we talk about the New Jerusalem. I think it is appropriate for us to reflect on the nature of God and our commitment to him until that day.
Benediction - 2 Cor. 5.16ff “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened––not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.