Epistle of Jesus #17: All Things New - Revelation 20-21
An old country preacher was wound up one Sunday while preaching about heaven in a small country church out in East Texas. He had extolled heaven’s beauty. He had waxed eloquent on heaven’s joy, and he had lifted his congregation to the heights as he described the throne room of heaven and the choirs that would be singing God’s praise there.
Finally, as he reached the climax of his emotional message, he called out in challenge to his little flock, “Now who wants to go to heaven?” Every hand in the church shot up and waved and the open rafters of that wooden building rang with shouts of Amen! Glory and Hallelujah! All except one man who almost always slept through the sermons. But the preacher wasn’t giving up until every hand in the place was raised. So, he called out again, “Tell me, now. Tell me the truth are ready? Are you ready to step into glory?” Again, every hand was raised, some of them had handkerchiefs and bandanas in them and were waving their answer back to heaven. “We’re ready!” But not that one man. He sat there looking around and seemed to be confused.
The preacher thought he better make sure this brother was heaven bound and so he asked him directly, “Bro. Jethro. Don’t you want to go to heaven one day after you die?” The man’s face took on a look of relief and he said, “Sure I do, preacher. But I thought you was tryin’ to get a group up to go right this here minute.”
Going Home - It’s easy to get excited and moved by the subject of heaven. Don’t we just love to sing of Heaven? I can say without a doubt that our favorite hymnal, the one they we choose whenever we get to ask for our favorite songs, is the Heavenly Highway Hymnal. We love to sing Just Over In the Gloryland, This World Is Not My Home, or I’ll Fly Away. It brings peace to our trouble hearts to sing Never Grow Old, We’ll Understand It Better By and By, No Tears In Heaven and Peace In The Valley. And doesn’t it touch your heart to sing of the reunions we’ll have in songs like I Will Meet You There, or I’ll Meet You In The Morning or If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven. I will meet you on that beautiful shore.
We love to sing of heaven because heaven is everything that this earth can never be. Heaven is eternal, while this world and everything in it grows older with each passing moment. Heaven is filled with joy, this world is overwhelmed in sorrow. Heaven is a place of soul lifting praise, while this earth is to often a place of heart-breaking lamentations.
C. S. Lewis once wrote to encourage a friend who was thought to be dying and afraid. He wrote, “Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
But most of all we love to think of heaven, sing of heaven and long for heaven because heaven is where we will dwell with God. All the wonder, hope, joy and beauty of heaven is because God has made it so and because God has placed that longing, that wonder, that hope in us as His children.
Can I give you another Lewis quote even though it was in a book that wasn’t about Christianity, I think it mirrors the feelings of his heart toward heaven? It certainly mirrors mine.
“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back. All my life The God of the Mountain has been wooing me. Oh, look up once at least before the end and wish me joy. I am going to my lover. Do you not see now?” ― C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces
Asaph, who wrote the most Psalms next to David wrote this in Psalms 73:23-26. Trying to understand the wickedness of this world and then coming to realize the answer was in looking to God.
… I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel,and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth:but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
That was written thousands of years before the scripture we are going to read today. Imagine if Asaph could have had the insight that we have been given. If he longed to be in glory with God before the Messiah, before the Gospels, before the Revelation of Jesus, how much greater should our desire be? Turn with me to Revelation 21, where Jesus’ letter from the future tells us of eternity and the new heaven and new earth we will dwell in with Him.
New Heaven, New Earth, New City - Revelation 21:1-4
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of 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 shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
The New Universe
There are three phrases used in chapter 21 that we have found throughout the Book of Revelation. They are used at those times that point to the landmarks, the great events of the chronology of the book. Whenever we see John write, “And I saw”, “And I heard a great voice” or “He that sat upon the throne said” then we know something momentous is about to take place. Now we those phrases again here the end of Jesus’ epistle and the pattern holds, for what we see and hear through John is the wrap-up of the letter, after the dramatic climax of Jesus riding that heavenly white horse, accompanied by all the heavenly armies, coming to the rescue of Jerusalem and the last surviving believers on the earth, especially those of the nation of Israel.
New Creation - “I saw”, John says, a new heaven, new earth and new Jerusalem. “I heard the voice from heaven” say, “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men.” So, these things are all new astoundingly, amazingly new and we along with John are called to take notice of them.
First The Old Destroyed - Before we consider the new, perhaps we should ask, what happened to the old heaven and earth, the old universe?
How - Peter in 2 Peter 3:10-13, tells us they are gone and he tells us how it is destroyed, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
When - Revelation 20:11, may tell us exactly when it was destroyed. “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” It could be that at the time of the Great White Throne Judgment, even the old creation, polluted and corrupted by man’s sin and Satan’s rebellion, is judged and destroyed by fire.
The New Heaven and Earth - And after the old is destroyed, Revelation 21 and 22 give us details of what the “new” will be like.
First, John sees the new heavens, new earth, and new Jerusalem. Revelation 21:1 I saw a new heaven and a new earth
The word for new, used here is καινός (kainos). In the AV, 44x it is translated new, but it is not the word neos, which means new as compared to something old, something that is younger, or fresher. No, this word, kainos, means new as in a new substance. It is of a new kind, unprecedented, novel, unique, never before seen or heard of.
The New Relationship
Now once again, John hears “a great voice out of heaven.” This how the John’s vision began way back in Revelation 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.
Each time a great voice is heard, it calls our attention to a wonderous event. Here it heralds the new reality of our new relationship with God.
The Great Desire- This new relationship will fulfill the great desire of His people of those who love Him. To all of God’s people, both Old Testament and New Testament our great desire is to see and be with God.
Moses expressed this desire to see his God and God said, Exodus 33:18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.
The Psalmist express the same desire in Psalms 42:1-2 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
And in Psalms 63:1-3, David wrote, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.
In the New Testament the promise is closer and is better understood by those who walked and talked with Jesus, the Son of God, 1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Now in Revelation 20, John hears the great voice call out, “Revelation 21:3 Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God
This long promised, long hoped for day will finally be the reality of our relationship with God. We will experience His presence as we never have before, every moment of eternity. The word for tabernacle here is used in the same way as it was used the book of Exodus where God was instructing the Hebrews to build Him a tent, a tabernacle to dwell in with His people.
The same word as a verb is the word John used when he wrote, in the Gospel of John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Now John hears the great voice announce that God will not dwell in a temporary tent in the wilderness. Nor will He only dwell in a temporary human tabernacle of flesh upon the earth for just 3 years, but the time has come for God to dwell eternally with His people.
No longer will there be a separation of a veil, or of time or space. All these were part of the old but now just like the old heavens and earth they are done away, and a new relationship takes its place. This time God’s tabernacle abides forever with us. There will never again be any separation between God and his people.
And the result of this new relationship is seen in one of the most beautiful and tender verses in all the Bible. vs. 4
Revelation 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Do you hear these simple, tender words of promise? This is language that the persecuted, the martyred, the suffering, the hurting people of God will fully understand. It is the final reward for all they have endured.
There will be no more tears. No tears of sorrow, no tears of loss, no tears of loneliness, no tears of emptiness.
There will be no death, Paul’s words to the Corinthians has come true. 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
There will be no mourning and no crying. Joy, happiness,
praise and rapture will have replaced them and removed them from our memory. The
hope of Psalms 30:4-6 is now fulfilled Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life:
weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
What John is seeing is that eternal morning of joy.
Finally, the great voice says, there will be no more pain. The sin and corruption that brought sickness, old age, genetic defects, crippled bodies, weak hearts, epidemics and pandemics is gone and with sin gone, the physical, spiritual or emotional pain that it brought can no longer exist in the presence and power, of the fulfilled promise of God with us.
In these first opening verses we hear and see as a kind of overview the the new creation of God, then in the next verses we and John are given an even more detailed picture of that day.
John now hears not just a great voice but THE great voice of the One seated upon the throne in vss. 5-8. Now God begins to give greater insight into what John has seen. Then later in vss 9-27 one of the seven bowl angels who has been giving John a tour of heaven and earth, no takes him on a tour of the New Jerusalem, the centerpiece for all of the new creation.
New Creation - Revelation 21:5-8
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
New People for the New Creation
First God upon the throne speaks, “Behold, pay attention, take notice, don’t miss what I’m going to tell you. I make all things new.” And he adds this reassurance, Write: for these words are true and faithful. He is telling John, “Put it down with pen, ink and paper. Make it permanent because these words are true and worthy of faith.”
That phrase “true and faithful” is used 4 times in Jesus’ epistle, the first time when John’s heard the words from Jesus in Revelation 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; and then in that climatic scene from Revelation 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
It Is Done - Then the voice from the throne says, “It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” This title has been used up to this point by Jesus, but it belongs equally to all in the Godhead.
The phrase “It is done” is used twice in the book of Revelation. The first time at the end of all the plagues in 16:7 and now here at the end of all things. It is done. It has the same meaning, the same finality ad the words of Jesus upon the cross, It is finished.
With this statement of finality, God also sets the standard, the boundaries of the new Creation. This is also final and cannot be changed. We are told that, there are two characteristic of those who will be with God. They thirst and they have overcome. “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
They come athirst with a desire for God and He quenches their burning, parched hearts with the water of life.
This is what Jesus told to the woman of Sychar. John 4:14 …whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
At the feast of Tabernacles in John 7 he made the same invitation, John 7:37-38 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
Those who have come to God to quench their thirst will dwell with Him and those who have overcome will inherit all things and God shall be their God and they shall be his son.
This same John, the writer of the Gospel account and the book of Revelation told us what an overcome is in his epistle. 1 John 5:3-5 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
Let me ask you. Do you want it all? Do you want a world without pain and sorrow? Do you want the joy and honor of being a child of God? Do you want to have all that the God of creation, the sustainer of the universe, the maker of the new universe will give you as one of His own? Then be an overcomer. Overcome fear, doubt and sin by putting your faith and trust in Jesus the Son of God.
Illustration. D. L. Moody
After the great Chicago fire of 1871, evangelist Dwight L. Moody went back to survey the ruins of his house. A friend came by and said to Moody, “I hear you lost everything.” “Well,” said Moody, “you understood wrong. I have a good deal more left than I lost.” “What do you mean?” the inquisitive friend asked. “I didn’t know you were that rich.” Moody then opened his Bible and read to him Revelation 21:7, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son”
Transition: Those who won’t experience the New Creation
The Lord also make it clear who won’t be a part of His new creation. Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
You could sum all these up with just one word, the unbelieving. Instead of new life in a new creation, they pass for all eternity into a second death. And here is God’s clear warning, all you must do is heed it.
The rest of this chapter is all about the next new thing and it is so important that it is described with more words than everything in the first 8 verses. This is New Jerusaelm and it is the focal point of all the New heavens and New earth. This is the capital of the New Creation.
New Jerusalem - Revelation 21:9-27
And there came unto
me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last
plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride,
the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high
mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of
heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone
most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great
and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names
written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of
Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three
gates; and on the west three gates.
And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.
City Of God Made New
There is much we can take much time on in the vision of New Jerusalem. We could break down the symbolism of the colors of the stones that make up its walls and foundations or the great single pearls that each make up one gate. We could get lost in its dimensions, 1500 miles wide, 1500 miles in length and 1500 miles high into the sky. An impossible city to build outside the power of God.
We could tell you that it comes down from heaven, perhaps because it has been waiting in heaven for this day. Perhaps it’s up there right now. We could spend time telling you why it is described as a bride, but now called the Lamb’s wife. We could study its 12 gates and cast our eyes over its 12 foundations of precious stones. We could try and describe transparent gold streets.
How could I add anything to the description of these marvels of the handiwork of God. Do I have better words than John? I am more inspired? No. I can’t really make it more amazing than John’s description of the river of water of life, clear as crystal that flows from the throne of God.
Can I make the tree of life that stands in the middle of this river, with branches that seem to reach from one bank to the other more vivid? Should I make up names from the 12 kinds of fruit or try to explain to you how the leaves bring healing to the nations?
I can only repeat that there will be no temple there, no night there and no need of a lamp or even the light of the sun. For the Lord God gives them all the light they will need for all eternity.
We could take another 2 or 3 hours and bury ourselves in the wonder that will be the new Jerusalem, but instead I just want to focus on the last phrase that follows all these descriptions. “Revelation 22:4-5 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads… and they shall reign for ever and ever.”
That what is really important. This we can fully grasp and understand. We shall see His face. We shall behold the face of God, We shall see the face of our Savior, Jesus Christ and we shall reign and live with God for ever and ever. And we will be seen as His for all eternity. That is better than the gold, better than the precious stones, even better than a city so big it will take a continent just to hold it. We will be with God the Father and God the Son who loved us, sacrificed for us and made us an eternal home with them.
Conclusion: Renewed Assurance and Invitation - Revelation 22:6–21
Final Assurances in the Epilogue
The Epilogue of the Book of Revelation is chapter 22:6-20. In it we have the final assurance of the prophesies and promises given to John. Now Jesus once again speaks directly to John and to us, just as he did in the opening chapters. This is the last time we will hear him directly until He returns. Listen to what He says
Faithful and True. Revelation 22:6 And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
This is the final time this phrase is used and it is here to undergird and bind up all that has gone before.
There is no doubt, not even a shadow of a doubt about what John has recorded because the God of the prophets, the god of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jeremiah, Joel and Zechariah, who wrote the OT prophecies has now sent his angel to shew it to John, the last apostle and the last prophet until the Tribulation.
Behold, I come quickly is the next phrase. Revelation 22:7 Behold, I come quickly
Three times in the epilogue Jesus assures us by saying, “I am coming quickly!” (vv. 7, 12, 20). “Quickly” here as the idea of swiftly. When the great events of the Tribulation begin, it will be only a very short 7 years until Jesus returns, I come quickly. Three times he says, “I come quickly.” Three times He is telling us, “Listen carefully, watch faithfully and be ready at all times.”
Blessed Is He. I also want you to notice the last assurance as the book closes. “blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
Seven times in the book of Revelation we hear the words “Blessed is or Blessed are.” These are the beatitudes of the Epistle of Jesus, and they give us the assurance of God’s blessing if we read and if we believe.
The first beatitude was in Revelation 1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
We read them again 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6 and then here in 22:7 and finally, Revelation 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
The blessed are those who read the word of God, keep the word of God and those who obey the Word of God. There is no other more blessed life and that is God’s assurance.
Finally, there is this last firm assurance and then a tender invitation filled with the grace of God in Revelation 22:16-17 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
The Lord, the Spirit and the Bride, say come. If you are hearing this, come. If you are thirsty for the true, the real, the lasting. If you are searching then come. And whoever you are, wherever you might be in your spiritual life, however lost you may be, Still you may come and take the water of life freely!
Is there any better way to end a 17 sermon series on Revelation than by hearing the invitation given by Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Church? I can only think of one and that is to respond to that invitation.