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Faithlife

Return to Me (Chinese)

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In the familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son (), the Son leaves his father and wastes his inheritance.
We could look at this topic from so many different angles but here's why I'm preaching from .
One last introductory note: Remember the Bible is ultimately one story. And today’s passage is the climatic ending of the story. You can't just pick up a novel, turn to the last chapter and expect to appreciate whats going on. Its the same thing here. The more you understand the whole story, especially the OT, the more you will understand and appreciate how wonderful our future home will be.Obviously I don't have time to explain everything about the new heaven and new earth in detail. But lets turn out attention to:
In the familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son (), the Son leaves his father and squanders his inheritance.
In the familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son (), the Son leaves his father and squanders his inheritance.
In the familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son (), the Son leaves his father and wastes his inheritance.
Whats new about the new heaven and the new earth? To answer that we’ll focus on
When does he decide to come home? When he was sitting with the pigs thinking to himself, "Even the servants in my father's house eat better food than this!"
My goal today is to make you home sick. So that you’ll want to return to our Heavenly Father. I’m going to do that by preaching from .
The Book of Revelation was written to churches that had all kinds of problems. We see a glimpse of that in chapters 2 & 3.
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Already in this verse we are told, that when God makes everything new again “there was no longer any sea”.
Some of the churches were suffering, persecuted by the world.
Some of them were compromising, becoming like the world.
For those who love sailing or marine biology, this doesn’t sound good right? But its okay there’s still a river of water of life (). No sea but still got river. What about lakes? Only lake mentioned is the the lake of fire. But is John really trying to give us the topography (the physical layout) of the new earth? e.g Why doesn’t he mention whether or not there are deserts or snowy mountains etc? I don’t think thats the point. The Jews were not a sea-faring people. They much preferred to stay on land. For them the sea was considered a place of chaos and danger. So that even in the Bible the sea is used to represent the source of evil that threatens God’s people. Earlier John is given a vision in . “The Dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea”. If you read the rest of the book you’ll know that the Dragon is Satan. This beast is the antichrist that will persecute the church. But notice where this beast comes out from. Its comes out of the sea. That itself is using symbolic language from OT. In , there’s a vision of four beasts that “came up out of the sea”. If you’ve studied Daniel you’ll know that these four beasts represent four kingdoms e.g Babylon, Persia, Greece etc. The Babylonians or the Persians didn’t literally come out of the sea. They didn’t even attack from the sea. They attacked from the land. So its symbolic. The sea symbolises the source of chaos and danger that threatens God’s people. But now in this future new earth “there was no longer any sea”. God’s people are now completely safe and secure. This point is illustrated in another way.
So the apostle John is given these visions. He’s given these visions not to satisfy their curiosities about the future. But to both encourage and challenge the church to return and remain faithful to Christ.
Our problem is that we only think about life from an earthly perspective. We only think about whats right in front of us, what we can see and touch here and now.
From vs 2 onwards the vision shifts focus to a city. The New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven. We’re given a few details about this city of God. : On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. Now for us modern people, our cities are no longer protected with walls and gates. The enemy can easily fly over our walls and bomb us from the air. So there’s no point. But in the ancient world, walls and gates kept out the enemy. Usually the gates were open during the daytime for business, for trading etc. Plus during the daytime its easier to see your enemy coming from far. But at night, its more dangerous. Even today, with our city lights at night, its still considered dangerous. Parents will warn their kids, especially girls, “Be very careful when you go out at night”. And thats right. You could be robbed or rapped, kidnapped or killed. Even when we stay at home we will make sure our doors are properly locked. In the ancient world the city gates will be shut at night. But in the city of God, the gates won’t need to be shut because there will be no night. Don’t miss the significance of this point. The apostle John loves to play with light and darkness, day and night symbols. You see it throughout John’s writings. e.g In Jesus said “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world”At the Last Supper, its written: “As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out.” He left to betray Jesus. And then John writes “And it was night” (). Now of course it was really night time. But its also John’s way of saying, that this is the hour when the darkness of evil is allowed to gain the upper hand for a while. “It was night”. But in our eternal home, there will be no more night. But always light. We will be perfectly safe.
Thats why we always focus on things that won't matter. And love things that won't last.
Because we don’t really know the future that awaits us.
No longer will there be any curse. The city of God is like a garden. You see this most clearly in chapter 22. The Bible’e story began in a garden. The Garden of Eden. And now its ends with a Garden too. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent Satan tempted. Adam and Eve sinned. So God cursed the earth.Until today, we humans experience all kinds of frustrations and failures as we work and live out our days on this earth. But in this new and better paradise, Satan’s not there. Satan is already thrown into the Lake of Fire (). No more Satan, no more sin, no more curse. No wonder then....
As C.S Lewis said, we are like ignorant children who play in the mud. Because we can’t imagine what a holiday on the beach is like.
I even know Christians who said they don't want Jesus to come back.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” We are so used to suffering and evil that we think its normal. But its not normal. Deep down inside we know something's wrong. If death was natural, why are we so sad when people die? Its just nature. Its just biology.But we’re sad because deep down inside we know: were not made to die. Something’s wrong. And this verse confirms it. One day God will make everything right again. They way its supposed to be. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain”. Are you in much pain right now? Perhaps due to some chronic sickness. Hold on. Its only temporary. Perhaps someone has mistreated you. Hurt you in some way. Hold on, its only temporary. Are you in much sorrow right now? Heartbroken? Hold on. Its only temporary.Maybe you have just lost someone. Death has taken away someone you love. Hold on. Of course by God’s grace we can experience some comfort now. But our great hope is that one day God will wipe every tear from our eyes. And its not that He will have to keep wiping away them. No its once and for all. For there will be no more sadness. There will be no more reason to be sad. In our eternal home, there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain. It will be a perfectly happy place. Because it will be a perfectly holy place. Now that we’ve seen what is not going to be there. Lets focus on what is going to be there.
Not because they want more time to evangelise but because they’re enjoying life here. Jesus coming back only spoils the fun.
Heaven sounds boring.
In short: God will be there. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 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.”.
Unfortunately our idea of heaven is mostly from cartoons.
Thats how the story began. Adam and Eve (God’s people) in the Garden of Eden (God’s place) enjoying God’s presence. God walked in the Garden in the cool of the day (). But, God’s people sinned. And they were exiled from God’s place, separated from God’s presence. But God is so loving that He still wants us to be with Him. So the rest of the Bible’s story involves God’s plan to bring His people back to His place to enjoy His presence again. Israel, God’s people was redeemed from Egypt and brought to the Promised Land (God’s place) to enjoy God’s presence. God chose Jerusalem to be the place where His temple, His dwelling place will be. It was a reminder of God’s presence among His people. But it was also a reminder that sin has separated them from Him. Not everybody could enter God’s temple. Only God’s chosen priests, Aaron’s family, could enter into the temple. And only the High Priest, could enter into the the innermost part of the temple, The Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was where the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence, was kept. Even then the High Priest couldn’t enter anytime he liked (you know what today I think I’ll go see God) but only once a year. And not in any way he liked. He has to be protected. The High Priest has to clothe himself with holy garments, and be covered by the smoke of incense, so that he will not die as he enters into the Holy of Holies. Because he is a sinner. How can a sinner stand in the presence of a Holy God? You know the rest of the story. Israel sinned again and again without repentance. And so just like Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden, Israel is exiled from the Promised Land (God’s place). They lost the Temple (the symbol of God’s presence). But even as they were going into exile, God’s prophets spoke of a time when God’s people will return. But the way they described it, the language they used was so fantastic. It sounded more than just a return to the land of Israel (which did happen 70 years later). But it also sounded like a return to the Garden of Eden. But even an even better version of it. What the prophets described was a place where God will dwell with His people forever. And thats fulfilled here in the new heaven and the new earth. Remember Jerusalem was the place God chose to house His temple. It was God’s dwelling place on earth. But this is a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven. Its like heaven will be on earth. Radically transforming the earth. Because God’s permanent dwelling place with be here. In fact we are given the measurements of this new Jerusalem, and what it is made of. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He [the angel] measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. “The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass”. Basically the city is shaped like a cube. Its width and height and length are exactly the same. And its made of pure gold. Whats the significance of that?There’s only one other place in the whole Bible that is shaped like a cube: The Holy of Holies (). Its length, width and height were the same. It was also covered in pure gold. In other words: this whole city is the Holy of Holies! Its not like the old Jerusalem which had a temple and inside the temple is the Holy of Holies which only the high priest could enter once a year. No. In this new Jerusalem, there’s no temple. Notice in . I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. Remember the temple represented God’s presence. But now that God Himself fills this city with His glorious presence, whats the point of a temple building anymore? Its completely redundant. Instead of one room with restricted access, the Holy of Holies is now the whole city. God’s full presence will be freely enjoyed by all God’s people. Right now we must look through the eyes of faith. But one day we shall see God face to face. says we will see His face. His radiant face. Thats why there will be no more night. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it [so even the sun and moon are redundant], for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. Thats why there will be no more death. says that “the river of the water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb” through the center of the city. Thats why there’s no more sorrow. God will wipe away every tear. And says “in His presence is fullness of joy at His right hand are pleasures forevermore”. God’s people will finally dwell in God’s place enjoying God’s presence forever. But there’s one more layer of symbolism here. In 21:2 it says that the new Jerusalem is beautifully dressed like a bride on her wedding day. But later it also says that that the new Jerusalem is the bride of Christ. 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”. 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.” John’s hears that he will be shown the wife of the Lamb but what he really sees is this heavenly Jerusalem. This is symbolic. Jesus is obviously not married to the walls or buildings of the city. The city represents His people. In [this city] had a great, high wall with twelves gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On these [twelves gates] were written the names of the twelves tribes of Israel. In The wall of the city had twelves foundations, and on them were the names of the twelves apostles of the Lamb. Notice twelve and twelve. This is a way of saying that this city represents the totality of God’s people. All of God’s people, both from the Old and the New Testament are here. None of them are lost. So its a mixing of metaphors. On the one hand, this new Jerusalem represents God’s dwelling place, but it also represents God’s people. Its both. But whats the point of saying it this way?The point is God will dwell in His people. In His beloved.
Or from books written by people who claim that they have been to heaven and came back.
But let's stick to the Bible. It's the most dependable source. It has all that we need to know.
But even the happiest marriage here is nothing compared to the joy that all believers will experience with Christ then. So single people: We are not losers. We are not losing out at the end. By the way here’s a fun fact. Even if you’re married now, I hope you realise that one day you will also be single again. And I don't mean in the life to come. I mean in this life. Even if you enjoy a happy marriage, it's very rare for a husband and wife to both die at the same time. So one of you will be left behind, single. So when I’m talking about “single people”, I’m not just talking about people like me, I’m including divorcees and widows. If thats you, take comfort in the wonderful truth is that our true and better spouse awaits us. Sometimes in weddings we say that the couple were made for each other. Well we were made for God. Christ Himself will dwell with us, His beloved, and we in Him, in perfect union. How is this possible? How do spiritual prostitutes like us be joined in marriage to the King the Kings? Only because of Christ’s great sacrificial love for us. Thats why John keeps referring to Jesus as the Lamb. The city is the wife of the Lamb. Its to emphasize the fact that He was slain. He was sacrificed. Jesus is the husband who died on the Cross for His wife. To make her pure. To make her worthy to be with Him forever. All your Korean dramas lose to this. This is the greatest love story ever. And its your love story. We have a saying ‘all good things must come to an end’. But not true here. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. We will live happily ever.
Anyway what we are looking at today is the new heaven and new earth which nobody has ever been to because Jesus hasn't come back yet.
Right now, if you're a believer and you die, your soul will to go be with Jesus in heaven.
When a Christian dies its not a tragedy. Its a tragedy to think that its a tragedy.
Now that we had a glimpse of whats so different about the new heaven and new earth. How different should we be now? Remember these visions are not given to satisfy our curiosities about the future. They are meant to encourage and challenge us to return to Christ and remain faithful to Him. This is crucial because not everyone will inherit this new heaven and new earth. Only those who remain faithful to Christ. The rest will be punished in hell. The lake of fire. How we live matters. Let me stress in the strongest terms that salvation is by grace alone. He [God] said to me [John]: “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. The water of life is free because its already been paid for. By the blood of the Lamb. The only condition is that you are thirsty. That you realise your need of God’s grace in Christ. Yet this grace is so amazing that not only does it save us, it also changes us. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation ( ESV). The new creation has already begun in believers. So its not just that the heaven and earth will be made new for us, we are being made new for the new heaven and new earth. If you are living like the fallen world now then you have no share in the renewed world to come. Its written next in , that only “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 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”.
To live is Christ and to die is? Gain (). If I die now I ‘untung’ because my soul will be with Christ which is far far better.
So to repeat: if you're a believer and you die now, your body will rot/perish, but your spirit will be with Jesus in heaven.
Notice the first on the list in vs 8. “the cowardly”. I bet if you came up with a list of types of people who will go to hell, cowards would not be the first on your list. But it is here. These are those who are not willing to suffer for Christ. They love their own lives more than they love Jesus. They do not trust in His promises. Thats why next on the list is “the unbelieving”. Earlier one of the churches is told in “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” But cowardly don’t trust in Jesus’ promise here. They don’t believe that if we suffer with Christ we will reign with Him. They don’t believe that this “light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. Our attitude should be that if God blesses us with health and wealth: praise God! But even if not: praise God! Because all this is rubbish compared to what we have in Jesus.If our eternal home truly is the happiest of places, then we should be willing to suffer for Christ. But that doesn’t mean that we just passively wait for people to come persecute us. It also means that we should be willing to make bold sacrifices for the sake of the gospel. Its begins with small things. Jesus said: when you organise a banquet, invite those who cannot repay you. Why? Because you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (). Sacrifice time and energy to serve the church. Contribute to global missions. Either become a missionary yourself, or use your finances to send others to go. We don’t need to enjoy now. We don’t need a bucket list. A bucket list is a list of things to do before you die. People will save up lots of money to go and travel around the world etc before they die.I read about this luxury cruise that goes around the world. $10000 per night. We don’t need that. Luxury cruises like that is only for people who live once #YOLO. But if you belong to Christ, you have eternal life! Even though we’re not very sure of how life on the new heaven and new earth is going to be. We can be confident of this: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him” ( NLT). Since our eternal home is the happiest of places, we can willingly suffer and sacrifice for Christ now.
But thats not the end of the story. Thats not our final destination. Thats only a transit.
Our eternal home is also the holiest of places. That means we too should be holy now. Thats clear from the rest of the list in vs 8. “the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars”, all of these will not inherit the kingdom of God but will be condemned to hell. Lets say you could enter heaven without any holiness. Without a transformed life that seeks to please God. From verses like this I don’t think its possible but lets just say for the sake of argument, that you could enter heaven without any holiness. Do you really think you will enjoy the new heaven and the new earth? The sinful pleasures that you indulge in now will not be there anymore. Nothing impure will ever enter it. Its the Holiest of Holies.If you don’t enjoy fellowship with God’s people. If what they care about is not what you care about. If you think they are all boring, well then bad news: the new heaven and the new earth is full of God’s people. I have a friend who said that he’ll rather go to hell. Because all the fun people will be in hell. At least he’s honest enough to admit, that as someone who is worldly, heaven is boring to him. Now of course thats partly because due to misconceptions of heaven. But it is true that heaven would be a very miserable place for an unholy person. Heaven will be hell for them. Because don’t forget what makes heaven heaven?Notice from this passage how God-centered the new heaven and the new earth will be. How its all about God. For all eternity!Being reunited with loves ones who have died is just an added bonus. Its not the main thing.Sure there will be rewards in heaven. But our greatest reward is still God Himself. Notice in . The great street of the city was of gold. In King Solomon's Jerusalem, silver was as cheap, as common as stones (). In the New Jerusalem, even gold will be as common as stones. That the streets are made of pure gold. Because the true treasure of the city is God Himself. Heaven is only heaven because God is at the center forever. Just as He should be. For from Him, and through Him and for Him are all things. If God has not been the center of your life, if you haven’t treasured Him above all else, you will not appreciate heaven. But its not too late. Nothing you have done has closed the door yet. The way back is still open. God is graciously calling you to return to Him now. Look to Christ and His cross, and you will find your way home. Let me close by reading the end of the book of Revelation, and the whole Bible.
But eventually when Jesus does finally come back there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
Resurrection means we will have physical bodies again.
Alot of people don’t know this. Thats why many Christians don’t look forward to life after death. They think they will have to float around as ghosts forever.
But our resurrected Lord Jesus made it very clear He was not a ghost. He told the apostles to touch Him and see that He had flesh and bones (). He even ate fish.
When our Lord returns we too will have physical bodies again. Of course these bodies will be newer and better. They will be incorruptible (). And we will inherit a new earth.
Very often when we talk about God’s plan of salvation it sounds like its only about our souls escaping this big bad earth to go to heaven.
But God did not create all this just to give up on it.
God did not give up on us. He saved us and made us new. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation (). The new creation has begun in us. We are already being made new.
And one day He will make all things new. God’s new creation finally includes a radically new heaven and a new earth.
Read Passage: .
Its this new heaven and a new earth that we are looking at today.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
One last introductory note: Remember the Bible is ultimately one story. And today’s passage is the climatic ending of the story.
You can't just pick up a novel, turn to the last chapter and expect to appreciate whats going on.
Its the same thing here. The more you understand the whole story, especially the OT, the more you will understand and appreciate how wonderful our future home will be.
Obviously I don't have time to explain everything about the new heaven and new earth in detail. But lets turn out attention to:
Whats new about the new heaven and the new earth? To answer that notice what is no longer there.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
i) No more sea
The Jews were a people that preferred to stay on land. For them the sea was considered a place of chaos and danger.
For those who love sailing or marine biology, this doesn’t sound good right?
But its okay there’s still a river of water of life (). No sea but still got river. What about lakes? Only lake mentioned is the the lake of fire.
But is John really trying to give us the topography (the physical layout) of the new earth? e.g Why doesn’t he mention whether or not there are deserts or snowy mountains etc? I don’t think thats the point.
The Jews were not a sea-faring people. They much preferred to stay on land. For them the sea was considered a place of chaos and danger.
So even in the Bible the sea is used to represent the source of evil that threatens God’s people.
Earlier John is given a vision in . “The Dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea”.
If you read the rest of the book you’ll know that the Dragon is Satan. This beast is the antichrist that will persecute the church.
But notice where this beast comes out from. Its comes out of the sea.
The sea symbolises the source of chaos and danger that threatens God’s people.
If you’ve studied Daniel you’ll know that these four beasts represent four kingdoms e.g Babylon, Persia, Greece etc.
The Babylonians or the Persians didn’t literally come out of the sea. They didn’t even attack from the sea. They attacked from the land.
So its symbolic. The sea symbolises the source of chaos and danger that threatens God’s people.
But now in this future new earth “there was no longer any sea”. God’s people are now completely safe and secure.
This point is illustrated in another way.
From vs 2 onwards the vision shifts focus to a city. The New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven.
: On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
: On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
Now for us modern people, our cities are no longer protected with walls and gates. The enemy can easily fly over our walls and bomb us from the air. So there’s no point.
But in the ancient world, walls and gates kept out the enemy.
Usually the gates were open during the daytime for business, for trading etc. Plus during the daytime its easier to see your enemy coming from far.
But at night, its more dangerous. Even today, with our city lights at night, its still considered dangerous.
Parents will warn their kids, especially girls, “Be very careful when you go out at night”.
And thats right. You could be robbed or rapped, kidnapped or killed.
Even when we stay at home we will make sure our doors are properly locked.
In the ancient world the city gates will be shut at night.
But in the city of God, the gates won’t need to be shut because there will be no night.
But always light. We will be perfectly safe.
e.g In Jesus said “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world”
At the Last Supper, its written: “As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out.” He left to betray Jesus. And then John writes “And it was night” ().
Now of course it was really night time.
But its also John’s way of saying, that this is the hour when the darkness of evil is allowed to gain the upper hand for a while. “It was night”.
But in our eternal home, there will be no more night. But always light. We will be perfectly safe.
iii) No more curse
No longer will there be any curse.
The city of God is like a garden. You see this most clearly in chapter 22.
The Bible’e story began in a garden. The Garden of Eden. And now its ends with a Garden too.
In the Garden of Eden, the serpent Satan tempted. Adam and Eve sinned. So God cursed the earth.
Until today, we humans experience all kinds of frustrations and failures as we work and live out our days on this earth.
But in this new and better paradise, Satan’s not there. Satan is already thrown into the Lake of Fire ().
No more Satan, no more sin, no more curse.
That is why...
iv) There will be no more death, sorrow or pain.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
We are so used to suffering and evil that we think its normal. But its not normal. Deep down inside we know something's wrong.
If death was natural, why are we so sad when people die? Its just nature. Its just biology.
But we’re sad because deep down inside we know: were not made to die. Something’s wrong.
And this verse confirms it. One day God will make everything right again. They way its supposed to be. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain”.
Are you in much pain right now? Perhaps due to some chronic sickness. Hold on. Its only temporary.
Perhaps someone has mistreated you. Hurt you in some way. Hold on, its only temporary.
Are you in much sorrow right now? Heartbroken? Hold on. Its only temporary.
Maybe you have just lost someone. Death has taken away someone you love. Hold on.
Of course by God’s grace we can experience some comfort now.
But our great hope is that one day God will wipe every tear from our eyes. And its not that He will have to keep wiping them away. No its once and for all.
For there will be no more sadness. There will be no more reason to be sad.
In our eternal home, there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain.
It will be a perfectly happy place. Because it will be a perfectly holy place.
Now that we’ve seen what is not going to be there. Lets focus on what is going to be there.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 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.”.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 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.”.
The Bible’s story centers around God’s plan to have God’s people in God’s place enjoying God’s presence. (Repeat)
Thats how the story began. God’s people (Adam and Eve) were in God’s place (the Garden of Eden) enjoying God’s presence.
But, God’s people sinned. And they were kicked out of God’s place, separated from God’s presence.
But God is so loving that He still wants us to be with Him. So the rest of the Bible’s story involves God’s plan to bring His people back to His place to enjoy His presence again.
Israel, God’s people was redeemed from Egypt and brought to the Promised Land (God’s place) to enjoy God’s presence.
God chose Jerusalem to be the place where His temple, His dwelling place will be.
Not everybody could enter God’s temple. Only God’s chosen priests, Aaron’s family, could enter into the temple. And only the High Priest, could enter into the the innermost part of the temple, The Holy of Holies.
The Holy of Holies was where the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence, was kept.
Even then the High Priest couldn’t enter anytime he liked (you know what today I think I’ll go see God) but only once a year.
And not in any way he liked. He has to be protected. The High Priest has to clothe himself with holy garments, and be covered by the smoke of incense, so that he will not die as he enters into the Holy of Holies.
Because he is a sinner. How can a sinner stand in the presence of a Holy God?
But Israel sinned again and again without repentance.
So this time Israel is kicked out of the Promised Land (God’s place). They lost the Temple (the symbol of God’s presence).
But even as they were going into exile, God’s prophets spoke of a time when God’s people will return. But the way they described it, the language they used was so fantastic.
It sounded more than just a return to the land of Israel (which did happen 70 years later). But it also sounded like a return to the Garden of Eden. But even an even better version of it.
What the prophets described was a place where God will dwell with His people forever. And thats fulfilled here in the new heaven and the new earth.
Remember Jerusalem was the place God chose to house His temple. It was God’s dwelling place on earth.
But what we see here is a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven. God’s permanent dwelling place with be here with us.
In fact we are given the measurements of this new Jerusalem, and what it is made of.
The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He [the angel] measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long.
“The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass”.
Basically the city is shaped like a cube. Its width and height and length are exactly the same. And its made of pure gold. Whats the significance of that?
There’s only one other place in the whole Bible that is shaped like a cube: The Holy of Holies (). Its length, width and height were the same. It was also covered in pure gold.
In other words: this whole city is the Holy of Holies!
Its not like the old Jerusalem which had a temple that only the priests could enter.
No. In this new Jerusalem, there’s no temple.
Notice in . I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
Remember the temple represented God’s presence.
But now that God Himself fills this city with His glorious presence, whats the point of a temple building anymore? Its completely redundant.
Instead of one room with restricted access, the Holy of Holies is now the whole city.
God’s full presence will be freely enjoyed by all God’s people.
Right now we must look through the eyes of faith. But one day we shall see God face to face. says we will see His face.
Thats why there will be no more night.
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.
Thats why there will be no more death.
says that “the river of the water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb” through the center of the city.
Thats why there’s no more sorrow. God will wipe away every tear.
God’s people will finally dwell in God’s place enjoying God’s presence forever.
But later it also says that that the new Jerusalem is the bride of Christ.
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”. 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.”
John’s hears that he will be shown the wife of the Lamb but what he really sees is this heavenly Jerusalem.
This is symbolic. Jesus is obviously not married to the walls or buildings of the city. The city represents His people.
In [this city] had a great, high wall with twelves gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On these [twelves gates] were written the names of the twelves tribes of Israel.
In The wall of the city had twelves foundations, and on them were the names of the twelves apostles of the Lamb.
Notice twelve and twelve. This is a way of saying that this city represents the totality of God’s people.
All of God’s people, both from the Old and the New Testament are here. None of them are lost.
So its a mixing of metaphors. On the one hand, this new Jerusalem represents God’s dwelling place, but it also represents God’s people.
Its both. But whats the point of saying it this way?
The point is God will dwell in His people. In His beloved.
So intimate will our union with Christ be, that the only image that comes close is the union between a man and his wife on their wedding.
But even the happiest marriage here is nothing compared to the joy that all believers will experience with Christ then.
So single people: We are not losers. We are not losing out at the end.
By the way here’s a fun fact. Even if you’re married now, I hope you realise that one day you will also be single again. And I don't mean in the life to come. I mean in this life.
Even if you enjoy a happy marriage, it's very rare for a husband and wife to both die at the same time. So one of you will be left behind, single.
So when I’m talking about “single people”, I’m not just talking about people like me, I’m including divorcees and widows.
If thats you, take comfort in the wonderful truth is that our true and better spouse awaits us.
Sometimes in weddings we say that the couple were made for each other. Well we were made for God.
Christ Himself will dwell with us, His beloved, and we in Him, in perfect union.
How is this possible? How do spiritual prostitutes like us be joined in marriage to the King the Kings? Only because of Christ’s great sacrificial love for us.
Thats why John keeps referring to Jesus as the Lamb. The city is the wife of the Lamb. Its to emphasize the fact that He was slain. He was sacrificed.
Jesus is the husband who died on the Cross for His wife. To make her pure. To make her worthy to be with Him forever.
All your Korean dramas lose to this. This is the greatest love story ever. And its your love story.
We have a saying ‘all good things must come to an end’. But not true here.
Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. We will live happily ever.
Now that we had a glimpse of whats so different about the new heaven and new earth. How different should we be now?
Remember these visions are not given to satisfy our curiosities about the future. They are meant to encourage and challenge us to return to Christ and remain faithful to Him.
The rest will be punished in hell. The lake of fire. How we live matters.
Let me stress in the strongest terms that salvation is by grace alone.
He [God] said to me [John]: “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.
The water of life is free because its already been paid for. By the blood of the Lamb.
The only condition is that you are thirsty. That you realise your need of God’s grace in Christ.
Yet this grace is so amazing that not only does it save us, it also changes us.
If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation ( ESV). The new creation has already begun in believers.
So its not just that the heaven and earth will be made new for us, we are being made new for the new heaven and new earth.
If you are living like the fallen world now then you have no share in the renewed world to come.
Its written next in , that only “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 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”.
Notice the first on the list in vs 8. “the cowardly”.
I bet if you came up with a list of types of people who will go to hell, cowards would not be the first on your list. But it is here.
These are those who are not willing to suffer for Christ. They love their own lives more than they love Jesus.
They do not trust in His promises. Thats why next on the list is “the unbelieving”.
Earlier one of the churches is told in “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.”
But cowardly don’t trust in Jesus’ promise here.
They don’t believe that if we suffer with Christ we will reign with Him. They don’t believe that this “light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”.
Our attitude should be that if God blesses us with health and wealth: praise God! But even if not: praise God! Because all this is rubbish compared to what we have in Jesus.
If our eternal home truly is the happiest of places, then we should be willing to suffer for Christ.
Our attitude should be that if God blesses us now with health and wealth: praise God! But even if not: praise God!
Because all this is rubbish compared to what we have in Jesus.
But that doesn’t mean that we just passively wait for people to come persecute us. It also means that we should be willing to make bold sacrifices.
Its begins with small things.
Jesus said: when you organise a banquet, invite those who cannot repay you ().
Sacrifice time and energy to serve the church.
Contribute to global missions. Either become a missionary yourself, or use your finances to send others to go.
We don’t need to enjoy now.
A bucket list is a list of things to do before you die. People will save up lots of money to go and travel around the world etc before they die.
I read about this luxury cruise that goes around the world. $10000 per night.
We don’t need that. Luxury cruises like that is only for people who live once. But if you belong to Christ, you have eternal life!
Even though we’re not very sure of how life on the new heaven and new earth is going to be. We can be confident of this:
I’m not very sure how our life will be there in heaven but I know its far better than anything we can imagine.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him” ( NLT).
Since our eternal home is the happiest of places, we can willingly suffer and sacrifice for Christ now.
Our eternal home is also the holiest of places. That means we too should be holy now.
Thats clear from the rest of the list in vs 8. “the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars”, all of these will not inherit the kingdom of God but will be condemned to hell.
If you’re someone who loves the world and all the sinful pleasures of the world, even if you could enter heaven, do you think you will enjoy it?
Lets say you could enter heaven without any holiness. Without a transformed life that seeks to please God.
From verses like this I don’t think its possible but lets just say for the sake of argument, that you could enter heaven without any holiness.
Do you really think you will enjoy the new heaven and the new earth? The sinful pleasures that you indulge in now will not be there anymore.
The sinful pleasures that you indulge in now will not be there anymore.
Nothing impure will ever enter it. Its the Holiest of Holies.
If you don’t enjoy fellowship with God’s people. If what they care about is not what you care about.
If you think they are all boring, well then bad news: the new heaven and the new earth is full of God’s people.
I have a friend who said that he’ll rather go to hell. Because he thinks, all the fun people will be in hell.
At least he’s honest enough to admit, as a worldly person, heaven is boring to him.
Now of course thats partly because due to misconceptions of heaven.
But it is true that heaven would be a very miserable place for an unholy person. Heaven will be hell for them. Because don’t forget what makes heaven heaven?
Notice from this passage how God-centered the new heaven and the new earth will be. How its all about God. For all eternity!
Being reunited with loves ones who have died is just an added bonus. Its not the main thing.
Sure there will be rewards in heaven. But our greatest reward is still God Himself.
Notice in . The great street of the city was of gold.
In King Solomon's Jerusalem, silver was as cheap, as common as stones ().
In the New Jerusalem, even gold will be as common as stones. That the streets are made of pure gold.
Because the true treasure of the city is God Himself.
Heaven is only heaven because God is at the center forever. Just as He should be. For from Him, and through Him and for Him are all things.
If God has not been the center of your life, if you haven’t treasured Him above all else, you will not appreciate heaven.
But its not too late. Nothing you have done has closed the door yet. The way back is still open. God is graciously calling you to return to Him now.
Look to Christ and His cross, and you will find your way home.
Let me close by reading the end of the book of Revelation, and the whole Bible.
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