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TEXT: Revelation 21:1-6
SUBJECT: Life After Death #3
Today, with God's blessing, we will finish our study of Life After Death. The Bible teaches there is a life after death for Christians, and that-for most of us-it will be given in two parts.
The first part is provided when we die. At that time, our bodies go back to the dust from which they were taken and our spirits return to God who gave them. This is what Paul has in mind when he says to be absent from the body [is to be] present with the Lord.which is far better than the life we now have.
But if this 'life after death' is better than 'life before death', it is not nearly as good as the life that follows it, what some have called 'life after life after death'. This is the life of the Resurrection; the life Jesus entered two thousand years ago, and the life God will give everyone who believes in Christ and perseveres to the end.
The Resurrection is hard to imagine, but it is easy to explain. When our Lord comes again, He will raise the dead bodies of His people and reunite them to our souls, both of which will then be freed from sin, weakness, and death, and invested with a glory like His own.
Beloved.it has not yet been revealed what we shall be,
but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him,
for we shall see Him as He is.
This is where our story begins. In Revelation 20, the People of God are raised from the dead-but then John leaves them for a moment to describe the appalling fate of their enemies. With this out of the way, he gets back to them. If the enemies of God will be cast into the Lake of Fire, what will become of His friends? Chapters 21-22 tell us. Every verse is worth careful study and long meditation, but we'll make do with the first six of them.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away.
If the words remind you of Genesis 1:1, they were meant to. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The universe He created way back when was a good one. Every day's work ended with the Lord pronouncing it good, and the sum total was even better-very good.
It didn't stay this way for long. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, they pulled down the whole creation with them. In particular, the ground was cursed. Up to then it produced nothing but fruits, vegetables, flowers, ferns, and other lovely and useful things. From now on, thorns and thistles (along with bamboo, ivy, and Bermuda grass) would spring up alongside them, often choking out the better plants, and making life hard for man, full of toil, pain, disappointment, and worry.
If man's Fall pulled down the world, his Resurrection will lift it up. Can a Resurrected man live on a fallen earth? Sure he can-our Lord did for forty days-but he is not suited to a fallen earth. Resurrected men are fit for a resurrected world-and this is what God gives them-a new heaven and a new earth!
This brings up a question: Will the new heaven and earth be completely new-another creation out of nothing? Or will it be a renewing of the universe we now have? If Revelation 21:1 were the only verse in the Bible, we would be inclined to see the new heavens and earth as totally new. But when we look elsewhere, we have to say otherwise.
Romans 8:18-25 says the frustration all believers feel in this life is shared by the world itself. It, too, groans and labors with birth pangs.eagerly waiting for deliverance. Which comes-Paul adds-with the redemption of our body (or, the Resurrection). With that, the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
This means all those utopian prophecies can be taken quite literally. If they symbolize more than they say, they also include what they say. Isaiah 35:1 is an example, of which there are many more-
The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,
And the desert shall blossom as the rose.
God did not create the world only to destroy it. The universe will be fully saved-when we are. When it is buried in the baptism of fire, it will rise to newness of life!
Also there will be no sea.
This seems to contradict what comes before it. The world has been renewed, and three-quarters of it is no longer there! What a loss. A world without oceans would be like.Kansas! I suppose you could live there, but who would want to?
This is not what the verse means. The Jews were a farming people, and not fishermen, traders, explorers, or other sea-faring folk. To them, the seas stood for unrest, danger, and invasion.
But the wicked are like the troubled seas that cannot rest, whose waters cast up dirt and mire. There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked (Isaiah 57:20-21).
Daniel saw four beastly kingdoms rising out of the sea to oppress God's People (Daniel 7:3). Jonah was thrown into the sea and swallowed by a great fish. John himself had nearly drowned in the sea. No sea, therefore, means no unrest, no danger, and no invasion. In other words, it means a safe and content world, at peace with God and itself.
Remember, too, when John wrote Revelation. Most scholars think it was in the 90's AD. This means it was after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the scattering of the Jews worldwide. John himself was an exile at the time, on the Isle of Patmos, off the west coast of Asia Minor. Looking at the sea reminded him-and his brethren-of how far they were from home, and how unlikely it was that they would ever see it again.
With this in mind, no sea, means we'll all be together and at home.
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
The old Jerusalem was a holy city in name-but not in fact. Seldom had it been half-way decent, but when John was a young man, he saw it hit rock-bottom. Jerusalem persecuted and condemned the Son of God. Had this been a moment of madness, it might have been excused. But it wasn't! The city had a long and consistent history of killing the prophets and stoning them whom [God] sent to them. In one of our Lord's bitterest ironies, He said-
It cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem!
Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah-Nineveh! But when a greater than Jonah came to Jerusalem, they crucified Him. This is the Old Jerusalem. The Romans destroyed that city-and good riddance!
John sees a New Jerusalem, and this one is everything the old one wasn't. It is the holy city, free of cowards, unbelievers, murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars.
It comes down from heaven, which means its residents are citizens of heaven and sons of the king.
It is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. This means it is a beautiful city, decked out for the Royal Wedding. It's a fairy-tale city, only this one, unlike the others, is real!
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God.
This is the central verse in the passage, and a summary of the whole Bible. From the beginning, God's plan was to dwell with us. In the Garden of Eden He did just that and with no problems. But then Adam and Eve sinned, and things got a bit sticky.
He wanted to be with us, but our sins and His holiness were like gunpowder and a match. So He found ways to come close, but not too close. The Tabernacle and Temple were God's House and the people were welcome there-as long as they stayed on the other side of the curtain. Later, He came to us in Christ, and this was a great leap forward. But there were curtains around the Lord, as well. Men could see Him, hear Him, touch and handle Him, but they could only see Him as a humble man (with a flash of something more now and then-but only a flash). With the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit He came closer still. He used to be with us, and now He is in us (John 14:17).
With the Second Coming of Christ, all curtains are pulled back, and we gaze on the glorified Lord Himself in all of His fullness. And, because we are now fully forgiven, purified, and resurrected we enjoy it!
To Israel, the Lord came and went. When Moses went up Mount Sinai, the Lord was smack-dab in the middle of His people. Forty days later, He was far off from the camp. In Solomon's day, the glory of the Lord filled the Temple; in Ezekiel's, it quit the Temple. David feared the Lord's departure, and prayed-
Cast me not away from Your Presence,
And take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
No one will pray this way in the New Jerusalem! There, we will so belong to Him and He will so belong to us, that no fear or insecurity or doubt will be possible. The most devoted father and the most loyal husband are traitors in comparison to God! In heaven, He will not leave us; He cannot leave us!
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying;
And there shall be no more pain,
For the former things are passed away.
If you're like me, you have your regrets. I regret so many bad things I've done and even more good ones I should have done. I regret what my sins and follies have done to me, and how they've hurt others. I regret that some of these wrongs cannot be righted and, because some of the people I've wronged are dead, I can't even say 'I'm sorry'. Regret has cost me many tears and more than a few sleepless nights.
Then there are my fears. Fear of sickness, fear of old age, fear of losing my job, fear of falling into scandal, fear of losing ones I love and need. I have fears for you too: I fear for your marriages, I fear for your finances, I fear for your kids, I fear for your health; I fear for your souls: I fear some of you will be damned to eternal destruction!
Some of you are far better acquainted with pain and sickness than I am. You live with awful pain, and have for years, with no prospect of getting better. Your body is shot-through with disease and there's nothing the doctors can do.
We have all lost loved ones, and some of them were so dear to us that we haven't gotten over the loss-and we never will. Oh, we have to go back to our normal lives of working, sleeping, paying the bills, and so on. But however normal our lives may look, they're not normal: because someone is missing.
This is our lot in the world-Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward is how Job put it. For these are present things-for now. But some day, they will be-
The former things [that are] passed away.
Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new'. And He said to me, 'Write, for these words are true and faithful'. And He said to me, 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end'.
If I made these promises to you, you'd have no reason to believe them: in the first place, I couldn't keep them if I wanted to, and, how do you know I want to?
But who's making these promises? It is He who sat on the throne. What throne? The throne in heaven. It is Christ who makes the promise and He makes it in His role of Almighty King, the one who can do whatever He wants to do!
Not only 'can He do what He wants to', but He will. Not that He might be lying, but-knowing how slow we are to believe His promises-He swears on oath-These words are faithful and true.
For good measure, He adds, I am alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. What is He the beginning and end of? Everything, of course, but here He means the beginning and end of our salvation. The One who chose us before the world began, who called us in time, and then justified us when we believed the Gospel, will also glorify us-or give us a place in the Holy City, the New Jerusalem! His plan is so sure of success, He speaks as if it is already complete-It is done.
I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
The Lord concludes his description of heaven with an invitation to join Him there. The fountain of life has been opened in heaven. The imagery is rich. The Garden of Eden was a green place because four rivers supplied its water. A Rock was opened in the wilderness to save a people dying of thirst. When Samson was dangerously dehydrated, God opened a spring to relieve him. Our Lord provides a water so satisfying that should anyone drink it, he'll never thirst again. The Holy Spirit is also compared to water, springing up in a man bringing blessings to all who know him.
This Water of Life is Life itself; in other words, it is God! Whom you will have in heaven and have to your heart's content. Forever.
The Water is offered freely, that is, generously, and without cost to you. It is offered to everyone who wants it. If you're thirsty for God, for happiness, for holiness, and for heaven, drink!
Friends, heaven is real and it's coming to earth. But is it coming for you? Or will you be excluded? The man who saw heaven and saw it peopled by ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands-from every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue did not see everyone there! He saw some 'not there'. Some he saw 'not there' were notorious sinners-murderers and perverts. But others weren't so bad (as we count badness). Some were 'unbelieving' and others were 'cowardly'. The former heard the Gospel and said it isn't so. Others thought it was so, but because they were scared of being laughed at or worse, they would not confess Christ. And no place was found for them in heaven.
But for disciples of Christ (however imperfect) a place in heaven will be found, and not only 'found', but 'prepared for us' by the Lord of Heaven, Jesus Christ.
Meditate on heaven. Find the verses and chapters that say something about heaven and read them over and over again.
Live for heaven. The values of heaven can be lived for now. If heaven is a holy place, live a holy life. If heaven is a place of Christian fellowship, seek that fellowship here on earth. If heaven is Christ-centered, center your life around Him.
Don't keep heaven to yourself. Tell your friends what heaven is and that they too can have a place there-and they will, when they repent of their sins and trust Jesus Christ to save them.
Pray for heaven. The best place to start is the Lord's Prayer-
Thy Kingdom Come.
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