THE GLORY OF HEAVEN based on Rev. 21:22-27
By Glenn Pease
Try to picture in your mind a cake of ice one and a half mile square. Just imagine a total square mile of ice, and half of the next mile, and then imagine that enormous block rising into the sky, not just to the height of an ice cube, not even to the height of the Empire State Building, but rather, to the height of 93 million miles. In other words, from the earth to the sun. Scientists have calculated that this gigantic cake of ice could be completely melted in just 30 seconds, if the full power of the sun could be focused on it.
This is power so staggering that almost anything you can say about the sun is an understatement. It's like the guy who watched the first atomic bomb test, and said after the explosion, that stuff is dynamite. The sun is so powerful we do not have terms to describe it's energy. At it's core, where the temperature is 13 million degrees centigrade, 4 million tons of hydrogen explode every second. Man has not, since the dawn of civilization, used that much energy. The sun does this every second of every day, and has done so since God created it.
Believe it or not, the children of God will go on shining and radiating with even greater energy than the sun, even after the sun has passed away. John says in verse 23, that this great light will not be needed in the new Jerusalem-the heavenly city. The glory of God is so great that no created source of light is necessary. Neither sun nor moon are needed, for there will never be a night. There can be no darkness in the presence of God.
Here we see an example of how the final paradise is not a replica of the first paradise. We are not just getting back to Adam and Eve in Christ. Salvation is much more than mere restoration. The first paradise was far from perfect, for it had in it the potential for the fall. In Christ we go forward to perfection, and to the fulfillment of God's ideal plan. The first paradise did need the sun and moon, for God had not revealed His full glory, as He will in the final paradise. The poet has said,
No need for the sun in that glory-filled land,
The sun would itself there be dim!
That land where the shadows or twilight ne'r come,
Where the light and the glory are "Him."
This was the glory the prophet Isaiah promised to Israel in Isa. 60:19, "The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night, But the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory." There will be no dark ages in the New Jerusalem, as there was in the old Jerusalem. Many of God's people have had to endure seasons of darkness, but never again in that city, for as verse 25 says, there shall be no night there.
He who is the Light of this world, and the Creator of all light, will be the lamp of the city. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, and thus, He becomes the Lamp of God that takes away the darkness forever. There can be no night in His presence.
There is no night of things unknown, uncertain,
Things which now try the heart to make it strong.
There is no night-there is no veiling curtain,
Just light, and bliss, and joy, and endless song.
Take away the sun from our solar system, and we are plunged into endless night. So will it be, for those who are not in the holy city. Hell is always pictured as a place of darkness, in contrast to heaven where there is only light. There are only two destinies-light and night. The persecuted Christians, who first read this book, and who lived in the darkness of Catacombs of Rome, would be so encouraged to know that their future would be one of never ending light and glory.
John lists all kinds of things that will not be heaven, for there is no way to describe the positives, except by the absence of their opposites. What will not be there is enough to boggle the mind, and give us endless motivation to speculate on what it must be like to be where no evil can ever be.
Not all that is absent from heaven is evil. There is nothing evil about the sun or the moon, and even night is a blessing in this world where we need sleep. It is not just the bad that is gone, but even the good, when it is not the best. Many good things will be absent just because the good is not necessary in the presence of the best. If you are in a dark room, because the storm has knocked out the lights, you are grateful for the candle. But when the lights come on again, you do not continue to burn the candle. It was good, but it was not the best. It goes back into the drawer, for when you have the best the good is not needed.
This is illustrated by John telling us in verse 22, that there will be no temple there. What a vacuum this would have created in the old Jerusalem. It was the most dramatic tragedy in Judaism when the temple was destroyed. Christians did not need to get bent out of shape over it, however, for John makes it clear, the temple is not eternal, but only temporal anyway. It was only a means to an end, and when the end is achieved, the means are no longer necessary. When the building is completed the scaffolding is removed, and nobody misses it, for it is no longer needed. The phone is an excellent means of communicating with someone, but if that person is present, the phone is no longer a help, but a hindrance. The phone is good, but the presence is best, and when the best is here the good is gone.
In heaven there is no need for a place to go to worship God. He is everywhere present to all His people. God and His Son are the temple, and they are everywhere. There is no need for a special place to go to be in their presence. We will dwell in that presence, and there will no longer be a distinction between secular and sacred. The temple, therefore, becomes totally obsolete in heaven. Here is a great city that needs no church. In heaven we never have to go to church, for there is no church to go to. This may be a real appeal to many-no more church forever. But keep in mind, the reason you never have to go to church is because you are always in church-that is, you are always in the presence of God.
The temple was the center of worship in Israel, but in Christianity the center is a person, and not a place. Jesus Christ becomes our center of worship, and so the church becomes a transition between Judaism and the eternal kingdom. The church never completely gets away from the idea of place, however. The building, the church worships in, becomes known also as the church, and so the place still is a vital part of the concept of church. In heaven, the place will fade completely, and the person will be all in all, for there will be no place-no temple, in which worship takes place. Heaven is Christianity finalized and fulfilled.
This has a powerful lesson for time. The goal of history in God's plan, is to eliminate the distinction between the sacred and the secular. In heaven we do all for the glory of God. If it be eating at the marriage banquet of the Lamb, or enjoying the fruit from the Tree of Life, or admiring the jewels sparkling in the city walls, or serving God in manifold ways, all is sacred. The more we can bring the two together now, the more we will enjoy a truly spiritual life. To be able to enjoy the secular life as a part of the sacred, is the ideal. We need to learn to do all that we do for the glory of God. Our secular tasks will then be a part of our spiritual life.
When we get to heaven, all that was symbolic of the best to come, will be gone. You do not cling to the picture of a loved one, when the loved one walks into your presence. Symbols will no longer be needed, and that is why the temple will be no more. On the cross, Jesus removed the veil in the temple. When He comes again, and receives us to Himself, He will remove the temple itself. No one will ever have to come to God again, for God has come to all. Christians argue a lot about whether or not the temple will be rebuilt, but there is no doubt, the temple will not be a part of the eternal Jerusalem. It will be a templeless eternity, because it will be a Christ-centered eternity. Spurgeon wrote, "What a glorious hour when God and not His creatures, God and not His works, but God Himself, Christ Himself, shall be our daily joy! Plunged in the Godhead's deepest sea, and lost in His immensity." Such will be the glory of heaven.