(Revelation 21-22)

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        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 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, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 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."
        He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
        He said to me: "It is done. I am the A and the Z, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
        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. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
        The Angel speaking with me had a gold measuring stick to measure the City, its gates, and its wall. The City was laid out in a perfect square. He measured the City with the measuring stick: twelve thousand stadia, its length, width, and height all equal. Using the standard measure, the Angel measured the thickness of its wall: 144 cubits. The wall was jasper, the color of Glory, and the City was pure gold, translucent as glass. The foundations of the City walls were garnished with every precious gem imaginable: the first foundation 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. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate a single pearl.
        I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 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. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
        Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place."

Not all of Revelation is a vision of what is to come. Much of Revelation describes what is and what has been. But this last vision is truly a preview of what is to come. We might say that this is a vision of heaven, but to be accurate that might be too limiting. John has described heaven already. He described the throne room of God and the drama of the Lamb opening the scrolls. That was his glimpse through the open door to heaven. Heaven, according to John, is where God is at. And this final vision is a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. A new city. A new reality! God is there – and so are the saints. God and us together as he always intended it.

... the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Here is the second to last proclamation of the book. It is a vision intended to inspire hope and encouragement. There’s even a brief architectural survey of the new city complete with engineering notes on the type of materials used in construction. But don’t let that grab all your attention. Notice what’s different about this new heaven and new earth age. ...

There will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain ...

Did you notice that the new reality is described in negative terms? We are even told that there will be no more sea and no more night. Sea and night for the ancients represented fear and terror, also separation and loneliness. Notice then that this inspiring, hopeful, encouraging vision is described by telling us what it is NOT. And as good as that is, when you think about it you realize that we are still in the old order and we do indeed know that THERE IS ...

Loneliness, separation, fear, terror, pain, crying, mourning, and death.

Why remind us of that? It seems cruel to remind us of the pain and suffering of the old order. Why remind us that we are afraid, lonely, hurting, crying, sad, and dying – or hurting because of the death of those we love? How is this hope? How is this encouragement? Why am I bringing this up? Isn’t the sermon supposed to lift us up?

I want to bring in a ten dollar word: eschatology. Eschatology is a fancy term for “the end.” Our eschatology is our view of the future. How it all ends. Everyone has some sort of eschatology even if they don’t believe in God. We have a need to know how things will end. We seek closure.

Christians need to know their eschatology. That’s why the Revelation is given: not just to give us a sense of where we’ve been and how we got here, and why bad things are happening, but also to give us a sense of where it’s all going -– eschatology!

Unfortunately, our eschatology has not always been what it should to be. We live in a here and now culture that lives for the pleasure of the moment. And when it comes to our spiritual future, Americans are heirs of the revivals of the great frontier that has rooted within us an eschatology that amounts to little more than “turn or burn.”

“Turn or burn” isn’t invalid, it is just so unfortunately incomplete. There’s more to eschatology, the end, than escaping the big trap door that leads to hell. I know it is difficult to challenge this since it is so strong in our culture and our spiritual DNA. Better people than me have preached on this for ages, it’s what we’ve always heard, and I am certainly not denying that there is hell and punishment awaiting the wicked and sinful who will not repent (Revelation says something about that too) ... but I just want to point out that God has a bit of an opinion on how things are going to end up and I think we ought to listen to his “two cents.”

You see, just when we think we have reached our limit with the hell on earth that comes in the form of fear, loss, pain, crying, mourning, and death, ... right as we begin to question God and ask him why this is happening (and there’s nothing wrong with that). God speaks. It’s only one of two times in Revelation that God himself speaks. [The other time is 1:8 and God gives us his credentials – “I am the A and Z [alpha and omega], the beginning and the end, the one who was, and is, and is to come, I am the Almighty.”] God told us who he is, now he tells us what he is doing ...

"I am making everything new!"

Really, you can sum up everything we need to know about eschatology in this single phrase.

How is it hope and encouragement to remind us of the old order? To remind us that there is death, mourning, crying, pain? To remind us that we still live in a world with the darkness of night and the turmoil and separation of the sea?

It is hope when we see that our life now is just a letter in the alphabet. But God who was with us at A is waiting for us at Z. And hasn’t left us along the way, but he is teaching us our alphabet. He is making all things new. He knows that we are afraid, he knows that we are sad, he knows that we mourn, he knows that we hurt, and he knows that we are fragile and we die – but if he has anything to say about it – this will not be the last word!

God will wipe away the tears. God will cast out the darkness with the light. God will raise the dead. God will make everything – all things – new! Those who overcome the old order of things will inherit this new order. He will be our God and we will be his children.

But all of this is the second to the last word in Revelation, because we need one final encouragement to give us the courage and the hope to make it through the old order. "Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book."

When you know that there’s something new waiting on us we can endure the old. But there’s even more than that - When you know that God is on his way, you can be hopeful and be comforted. When a parent teaches a child to walk they stand ahead of them and beckon. “Come to me! Come to Daddy, Come to Mommy!” But as soon as that child stumbles and gets scared the parent reacts immediately and says, “I’m coming!”

        12"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13I am the A and the Z, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
        16"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."
        17The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
        20He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
        21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 23 July 2006

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