“Did You Know…? Mom…? Dad…?”

If you have one of the varied entertainment packages and aren’t stuck with network TV or Netflix, you’ve probably seen the commercial (over and over) telling parents they need to get their 11 or 12 year old sons or daughters vaccinated against HPV (Human Papillomavirus).   This is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the US and apparently it’s the only thing parents have to worry about with their soon-to-be adolescent youngsters.  The commercial ends with a young girl or boy asking the question in the title.

It’s a telling commentary on the state of our culture that it believes that this is what is to be parents’ main concern.

Children are a great responsibility.  Through Moses, God has some instructions to Israel about how they were to raise their children.  In Deuteronomy 11:19, He said, “You shall teach them [“these words of mine,” v. 18] to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”   He has a great deal to say about about marriage, intimacy, family, about life in general and our responsibility to Him, to ourselves and to others, and about the results of disobeying or disregarding His Word.  We see the results of this all around our society and culture in messed-up kids and adults.  It’s not up to the church or the Sunday School to teach your kids about the things of God; these may have a place, but it’s your responsibility. 

“Did you know…?  Mom…?  Dad…?”

Revelation 22:6-21, “Even So, Come, Lord Jesus!”

6] Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true,”  And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.

7] “Behold, I am coming quickly!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

8] Now I, John, saw and heard these things.  And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.

9] Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that.  For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book.  Worship God.”  10] And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of this prophecy, for the time is at hand.  11] He who is unjust, let him be unjust still;  he who is filthy. let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”

12] “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give every one according to his work.  13] I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

14] Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.  But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

16] “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches.  I am the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

17] And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”  And let him who hears say, “Come!”  And let him who thirsts come.  Whoever desires, let take of the water of life freely.

18] For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:  If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19] and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

20] He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”

Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

21] The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen. (NKJV)

Verse 6 is a witness to the authenticity of Revelation.  It says a lot about the wickedness of human nature that, over and over, God has to assure us that He can be trusted and that His word is true.

The second clause refers to the Lord God of the holy prophets, reminding us of 2 Peter 1:21, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  That’s why His word is “faithful and true.”  It isn’t just the product of man’s wisdom or imagination.  “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

The Lord refers to His coming three times in this chapter, in vs. 7, 12 and 20.  In v. 7, it’s in connection with the prophecy of this book.  This doesn’t mean that prophecy is something to speculate or argue about or to sensationalize or trivialize.  It’s to assure us that the future is in His hands and that He has everything under control.  In v. 12, it’s in connection with His purpose to give everyone according to his work.  It’s too easy for us to seek a reward in the approval and praise of mere men, but the only praise that will amount to anything is the commendation of the One who is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.  The interesting thing is that He says it’s His “Reward.”  Unbelievers and skeptics, those who scorned Him at His First Coming and hanged Him on a Cross, and those down through the ages who have rejected Him or corrupted His teachings will discover that He is the Judge, not them!

Both the godly and the ungodly will find this to be true.  The godly, those who do His commandments, v. 14, will enter the city.  The wicked, described in v. 15, will never enter that city.  There will be nothing that corrupts or defiles allowed into that eternal paradise.

V. 15 says these things are to be testified in the churches.  Yet how seldom is this true, that churches are given the message in this book.  I know there is a lot of discussion, sometimes heated, about what that message is, but if nothing else, it concerns what is the emphasis in these verses:  that the Lord Jesus will return to this earth, that there is coming a time of reward or punishment, and that the invitation is freely given to “Come.”  I don’t have access to the original language at this time (I’m actually on vacation), but I wouldn’t be surprised if this word isn’t an imperative, that is, a command, for folks to come to the Savior.  This is similar to Acts 17:30, which says, God commands all men everywhere to repent.

There’s some discussion as to whether the Gospel is an offer or an invitation.  I think it’s actually a proclamation from the Court in Heaven that men are under condemnation because of their sin, but God, the High King of Heaven, has made a way of escape through His Son and those who repent of their sins and trust in Him for salvation will receive a full and complete pardon for those sins.

Verse 11 troubles some people:  He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.  Some might think that the verse means that God is ok with unjust and filthy lives.  Perish the thought.  We think our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 13 is the answer.  In this chapter, He is describing the Kingdom of God using various similes and pictures.  In vs. 24-30 he uses the analogy of a man sowing wheat in his field.  An enemy comes along and sows tares in that same field.  BTW, the NIV version saying “weeds” is terribly inadequate and misleading.  Our Lord isn’t talking about something like dandelions!  No, no, the idea is that tares are almost indistinguishable from true wheat until harvest, hence, the reference to harvest in v. 30.

The meaning is that we can’t infallibly tell the heart condition of anyone.  Some looked down on in “church” might actually be godly individuals, while some who have huge ministries but whose praise is from men might find that that is all the reward they will ever get, and the Lord will tell them to depart from Him, Matthew 25:41.  This does not mean that there can be no church discipline or that we can’t “judge” brethren whose lives don’t measure up to Scripture.  It does mean that we are neither infallible nor omniscient.

There is also a solemn warning against tampering with the contents of this Book.  There’s some discussion about whether this warning is only for Revelation or for the whole Bible.  I think it’s the latter.  This book is God’s Word, and it’s a terrible presumption and a great wickedness for anyone to believe that it can be improved upon.  There has been no revelation since John closed his writing and to say otherwise is a wicked sin.

We can have no better close for this  post and this series than the one John gave to his own writing:

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.

Revelation 22:1-5, Paradise Regained.

1] And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  2] In the middle of its street,and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  3] And there was no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.  4] They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.  5] There shall be no night there:  They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light.  And they shall reign forever and ever.  (NKJV)

These verses continue and finish the description of “the new heaven and the new earth” begun in chapter 21.  So far we’ve seen something of the New Jerusalem and of the inhabitants of the new earth.  Now we see something of the blessings of that eternal life.

In Psalm 46:4, the Psalmist wrote, There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.  We believe this is a prophetic reference to “the pure river of water of life” John described in v. 1.  By the way, this river flows “out of,” not “by,” the throne, as one religious song used to put it.

However, John describes some things the Psalmist didn’t mention.  V. 2 might be translated, “Between its avenue on this side and its river on that side was the tree [or, wood] of life bearing fruit twelve times, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree [or, wood] were for the healing of the nations.”

John describes what we would call a lush, beautiful park.  The Greek word is, “paradise,” hence the title.  As in the beginning, God fellowshiped with our first parents in a park, so throughout eternity He will do so in the New Jerusalem.

The leaves of the tree are for the “healing” of the nations.  The Greek word is where we get our word, “therapy”.  I don’t understand what might be involved in that thought, but Adam and Eve ate before the Fall.  Our Lord ate in His resurrected body, though it wasn’t necessary to His well-being.  Though the saints will have glorified bodies, there will be others who, though perfect and sinless, will have ordinary physical bodies, which perhaps will need some care.  As I said, I don’t really know.

V. 3-5 gives us the reason why eternity will be perfect for God’s people:  “there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.”  Never again will the glories of Heaven be marred by the intrusion of rebellion.  “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.”  Only once or twice in Biblical history have men been allowed anywhere near to the God of heaven and that was only very briefly.  Here such association will be forever.

There are records of men having been caught up into heaven and telling their stories.  I make no judgment on these stories, but after being caught up into the third heaven, Paul wrote that he heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful to utter, 2 Corinthians 12:4.  The ESV translates this, he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.   There is only one source of “heavenly things” and it’s not the minds or experiences of mere men.  Besides, these things “cannot be told.”  How could we?  What do we have in this life or world to compare?

It will be a time of continual day, with no need of artificial light, v. 5.  Cf. 21:23.  We will have the “true light,” that One who said, “Let there be light…,” Genesis 1:3.  God is light and in Him is no darkness at all, 1 John 1:5.

We live in a time when Christians are increasingly disregarded, even despised.  In some countries, the tag is a death sentence.  Somewhere in this world, a brother or sister may be killed while you read these words.  We won’t read or hear about them because, in the world’s eyes, they’re not important, maybe even deserve to die.

The time is coming when that won’t be true:  “they shall reign forever and ever.”  The devil will not forever have his way in this world.

This verse closes our view of the future.  Vs. 6-21 deal with other things.  We only have a brief glimpse of things which must shortly take place, v. 6.  Again, we don’t believe the angel was telling John that these things would happen soon, as we’ve said elsewhere.

But…

They will happen.

Revelation 21:21-27: No Temple There.

21] The twelve gates were twelve pearls:  each individual gate was one pearl.  And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22] But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  23] The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it.  The Lamb is its light.  24] And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.  25] Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).  26] And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.  27] But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (NKJV)

We went over much of this in our last post; there are just a few things we want to look at again in this post.

Verse 21 describes the gates, or “portals,” into the city,.  “Each and every gate” is a single pearl.  An average pearl is less than the size of a marble.

Walls of gold and precious stones; gates of pearl.  All this beauty and glory teach us the poverty of this old world.  We don’t use gold or gems in construction.  They are much too expensive!  We have to use much cheaper materials!  Gold is at the top of standards of wealth and luxury.  No one would look on cement or asphalt as being “treasures”.  Though they, too, may be expensive, they aren’t really “worth” anything.  No young man goes out and buys a ring of cement for his beloved!  Yet God’s list of “treasures” shows gold at the bottom of the list, as it were.  As man’s wisdom is counted foolish to God, so his wealth is counted worthless.

But the pearl may have something to say to us, as well.  It might serve as a something of a picture of salvation.  A pearl is the result of a grain of sand or some other object working its way into the shell of an oyster.  Not being able to get rid of it, the oyster begins to secrete a substance which coats the object, evidently making it less burdensome to the oyster, but a thing of value to us.

So it is spiritually.  We may be very “attractive” on the outside, but on the inside is only corruption and sin, as Paul discovered, according to Romans 7.  The “coating” we have is “the robe of righteousness” given to us by the Lord Jesus.  It is this which makes us “accepted in the Beloved,” even as a grain of sand is “accepted” in the pearl.  So, in Christ alone are we worth anything.  The day is coming, praise God, when there will no “sand,” only perfect righteousness, inside and out.

The word translated “street” refers to “a broad place,” such as a park or an “avenue.”  It might have reference to a “town square”.  Perhaps it is the place where God’s throne will be.

V. 22 indicates that there will not be any temple in the city.  On this earth, there have been several temples and there will yet be a temple, both during the Tribulation and during the Millennium.  They symbolize that man is a sinner and that there is a barrier between God and man which can be broken down only by a blood sacrifice.  There is no temple in the New Jerusalem because Jesus has died, sin has been dealt with and sinners have been made righteous through Him.  There will be no need for such a place so that men can be restored to fellowship with God because that fellowship will never, nor indeed can ever, be broken in eternity.  Everything the redeemed ever need will be found in God and in the Lamb.  There will be no need for an intermediary, whether person or place.

Perhaps there is a lesson for us in this.  I know the Lord instructed Israel about both the Tabernacle and the Temple, so there’s nothing wrong with a building, as such.  It’s just that it’s so easy for us to get all wrapped up in ornate or fancy surroundings and forget that it’s supposed to be about worship and service of the Lord.

Verses 24-26 gives us a taste of what life will be like in this new place.  It seems that “life” will be somewhat like we know today, with “nations” and such, but without sin and its effects.  Perhaps it will be similar to what it would have been like had Adam and Eve never sinned.   Even in an unfallen world, there were things for Adam to do, and surely as they had children and families, there would have been some sort of “organization” of family or tribe or something.  Granted, it would have been far different than anything we’ve ever known, but it wouldn’t just be disorganized and every man for himself.  God is a God of order.  And He will recognized and worshiped in that future world.  He will have no “competition” and there will be no barrier between Him and His creation.

Once again, though, John closes this portion with a warning:  But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a life, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, v. 26.

This isn’t a popular message today, when it’s believed that everyone is on their way to “a better place,” that there are many roads to that place, in fact, they all lead there, and that hell is just a fabrication of Bible-thumping fundamentalists.

But our Lord warned, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,”  Matthew 7:13, 14.  Elsewhere, He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6, emphases added.

In agreement with this, Peter told the leaders of the nation, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12.

“No other name….”

“A narrow gate….”

“Wide is the way that leads to destruction….”

Oh, that we might understand the significance of these phrases.  Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no hope for the future.  There is nothing good to look forward to, only that our sins will have caught up with us.

He came to redeem sinners.  That’s the only folks He’s interested in.  He said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance,” Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32.  Those who think they’re good enough or that they can make it to heaven on their own, well, they’re on their own.

There’s only “one name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”

Revelation 21:9-27: The Eternal City.

9] Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.  10] And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11] having the glory of God.  Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.  12] Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelves tribes of the children of Israel:  13] three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.

14] Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  15] And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.  16] The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth.  And he measure the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs.  Its length, breadth, and height are equal.  17] Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.  18]The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.  19] The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones:  the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20] the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.  21] The twelve gates were twelve pearls:  each individual gate was one pearl.  And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22] But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  23]  The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it.  The Lamb is its light.  24] And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.  25] Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).  26] And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.  27] But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes and abomination or a life, but only those are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (NKJV)

There is a city on this earth which claims to be eternal.  As we’ve seen in earlier posts, this claim will be shown to be incorrect.  Though it’s in a different context, something God said in the last part of Jeremiah 44:28 might apply here:  [They] shall know whose words will stand, Mine or theirs.  There is only one city which will endure into eternity.  That city is described in our text.

The city is almost beyond description, certainly beyond our ability to picture it.  The most important thing about it, though, is said right away.  It’s not it’s impressive size nor its unbelievable beauty.  The most important thing is – it has the glory of God, v. 11.  This is implied in the fact that the it’s called the holy Jerusalem, v. 10, but not everything that called holy in this world has the glory of God, and maybe not anything.  This city is not of this world.

John says her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.  This is also the description of the wall surrounding the city, v. 18.  There’s some discussion about what this “jasper stone” is.  Some think it might have been green like an emerald, others think it is a diamond.  Whatever it is, the Shekinah glory of God shining through its crystalline structure will be breathtaking.  We’ve seen the beauty of light refracted through a diamond, or, for that matter, the beauty of light refracted through drops of rain in a rainbow.  I used to drive for a living.  One day, a storm had just passed and there was a rainbow, one end of which was right there on the hood of my truck.  It’s the only time I’ve experienced it, but that rainbow so close up was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  I can’t even begin to describe it.  I don’t know exactly what the city will look like, but earthly examples will pale into nothing compared to what we will see in the New Jerusalem.

In v. 16, John tells us the city is laid out as a square, 1500 miles to a side, and 1500 miles high.  This is certainly like no earthly city!  It appears to be a cube, though Ironside envisioned it as a triangle, with the apex being at the throne of God.  Others see it as a circle.  It’s surrounded by a wall 216 feet high, with three gates on each side attended by an angel, though it’s unclear what their function will be in a holy and righteous environment, v. 12.

The really interesting thing about these gates in v. 12 is that each gate is named after one of the twelve tribes of Israel.  We’ll come back to this in a moment.

In v. 14, John tells us that this wall had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Cf. Ephesians 2:20.

Let me turn aside for just a minute.  The Lord Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb” 26 times in Revelation.  I think there’s something here that we need to remember.  It’s so easy to get all wrapped up in the splendor of this city and of the prospect of streets of gold and of pearly gates that we forget one vital fact.  In 5:6, the first reference to Him, John saw a Lamb as it had been slain.

“as it had been slain.”

You see, much of this would not be possible, at least as far as we’re concerned, if the Lord Jesus had never been born of the virgin, lived a perfect and sinless life, died a substitutionary and atoning death on the Cross, and rose from the dead.  Heaven would still be heaven; we just wouldn’t be there.  We get so wrapped up in the blessings He bought for us that we tend to forget the price He paid for them.  But throughout eternity, He will be worshiped as the Lamb.

We should be doing that now.

John mentions our Lord’s twelve apostles as each being named on one of the city’s twelve foundations.  In v. 12, he mentions the twelve tribes of Israel.

What’s the significance of this?

There are a couple of major views of the place of Israel in God’s redemptive plan.  One view says that God is finished with Israel; she has no further place in God’s purpose.  When she crucified the Lord, she shut the door in His face – and in hers.  She’s done.  “The church” has taken her place and her blessings, though in a “spiritual” sense.  The OT prophecies will not be fulfilled “literally,” but spiritually, in the church.  A second view is that when Israel crucified her Messiah, God’s original plan was frustrated, and so He instituted “Plan B”: the church.  This is the view I was brought up with and held in the days of my youth.

Since then, though, I’ve come to look at this a different way.  The church is no “plan B”; how can a believer even have such a low view of God?  Sadly, too many do.  I don’t know about you, but if God had to change His plan every time I mess something up, He’d be way beyond plan B.  I know I’ve said that before, but it’s still true.  No wonder Christianity is in the mess it’s in!  Who wants to follow and serve such a feeble god?

No, no.  The Church is not some “Plan B”.  She is “Part B”.

The death of Christ didn’t catch God by surprise.  It didn’t throw a monkey wrench into the works.  That’s why our Lord came into the world in the first place – not just to live, but to die.  Israel’s rejection was just the means of accomplishing that.  And it’s through that death that she will ultimately be reconciled to her Lord, Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:26.

In Ephesians 3:6, Paul wrote that Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.  The early church had a lot of trouble with the idea that Gentiles could come to the Lord Jesus on their own without having to become Jews first.  This is what Acts 10 and 11 are all about: the extension of the Gospel and salvation to Gentiles.

In Ephesians 2:12, 13, Paul reminded the Christians at Ephesus, who were Gentile, about their pre-conversion state:  that at time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ, emphasis added.  In 2:14, he wrote that it was God’s purpose through the Lord Jesus, who Himself is our peace, then in v. 15, 16, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two,…and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, emphasis added.

The church isn’t a replacement for Israel.  She isn’t some spiritual version of Israel.  She is a “new man”, a new thing:  a body composed of both Jew and Gentile.  Ethnicity counts for nothing in the church – or it’s not supposed to – where there is neither Jew nor Greek, Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11.  I suppose in our day he might have written, “there is neither black nor white nor brown.”  He doesn’t deny our ethnicity or our gender or our economic status; it’s just that at the foot of the Cross, none of that matters.  It’s a shame that so much of our thinking even in the church is shaped by politics rather than by the plain teaching of the Word of God.

Though united in the holy city, Israel and the Church will never lose their distinctive identities.

Having said all that John has, still the wonder of the New Jerusalem isn’t its physical beauty or size.  As he mentioned in v. 3, where he said that God would dwell with men and do away with sorrow and suffering, here in vs. 22-26, he elaborates a little on that thought.  We won’t get into that so much because we have nothing to compare it with.  Our history and culture as a world has nothing like it.  It may be that things will be somewhat like they might have been had our first parents never sinned.  The important thing is that God will be there.  All else is insignificant.

In v. 27, John closes on a solemn note.  God will be there, but not every person will be there.  There are some who will be excluded, some things not permitted.  There shall by no means enter into anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. 

Once again, we get into this idea of being saved.  Oh, that we might understand this.  Not everyone is going to “a better place.”  The truth is, not a single one of us deserves to go to such a place.  We’re all sinners by birth and too often by choice.  Apart from the Lord Jesus, we live under God’s wrath and condemnation, John 3:18, 36.  Only through Him is there salvation from our sin and our condemnation.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, Acts16:31.

 

Revelation 21:1-8, “Behold, I Make All Things New”

1] Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.  Also there was no more sea.  2] Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  3] 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.  God Himself will be with them and be their God.  4] And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;  there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

5] 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.”

6] And He said to me, “It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the end.  I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.  7] He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall by My son.  8] But the cowardly, unbelieving, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Having gone past the end even of the existence of this planet, John brings to our attention some new things in the rest of the book.

There’s some discussion about verse 1.  John saw a new heaven and a new earth, of that there is no doubt, but the question is, will God create a completely new earth, or just rejuvenate this present one?  21:11 describes the Occupant of the Great White Throne as One from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.  And there was found no place for them.  22:1 calls them “the first,” indicating the presence of a “second,” that is, brand new heaven and earth.   

In v. 2, he describes the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven.  “Prepared as a bride” implies the splendor he will describe later on. 

Vs. 3 and 4 give a great promise:  the dwelling of God with men.  No longer will there be distance between the Creator and His creation, but He will be their God and I believe there will be fellowship such as was enjoyed in the Garden of Eden before the Fall.  In addition, God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.  That which is likely to be the description of much of life as we now know it will be no more and those moments of supreme happiness which are occasionally enjoyed now, as in a wedding or the birth of a baby or in the reunion of friends or family will be the norm in that place.

V. 5 gives us the assurance that these words are true and faithful.  We can depend on them.

The world will crumble away, history as we know it will cease to exist, and things will be completely new and different.  God remains.  As Psalm 102:25-27 says,

Of old You laid the foundations of the earth,
And the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but You will endure;
Yes, they will grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will change them,
And they will be changed.
But you are the same
And Your years will have no end.  

For the most part, we want permanence and stability in our lives.  We want what we might call a comfort zone.  But unless we look to God and follow and serve Him, anything of this world that we look to will eventually disappear, or we’ll leave this life and all those things – then what?

It is only God who remains to the end – and beyond.

He can do that because as verse 6, echoing 1:8, reminds us, He is the beginning and end, the A and the Z, of life and creation.  Nothing exists without and apart from Him and nothing is without purpose, even though we may not and probably don’t understand it.  After all, how much could an ant understand of chemistry or physics?  And that gulf is nothing compared to the gulf between us and God.

But this God who is infinitely different and separated from us, is not an indifferent or distant deity.  He didn’t just create the world and then go off to do something else.  He is vitally interested in what goes on here, not in the sense of wanting to see what happens next, but because it is His creation.  He sees that we can’t really be happy just with “things,” and so He gives a gracious invitation:  “I will give of the fountain of life freely to him who thirsts.”

“Thirsts.”

For what?

“Things”?

Will more of the things which can’t really make us happy make us happy?

No. No.

Long before Revelation 21:6, the Lord Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28.  Also, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled,” Matthew 5:6, emphasis added.

I believe it was Augustine who said that God created man with a God-shaped hole in his heart and only God can fill it.  Adam and Eve thought they knew better – and we haven’t learned anything at all from their experience.

“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall by My son,” v. 7.

Human wisdom thinks its foolish to give up everything for some “pie in the sky” later on, as if the devil were a better paymaster than God.  But God says that those who are willing to give up things don’t lose.  To the contrary, He says, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things.”  There is no loss in serving God.

There is one caveat – one warning – in all this.

“Overcomes”.

You see, in order to take hold of what God offers, we have to let go of “things”.  That doesn’t mean to leave everything and go to live on a mountaintop.  Also, by taking hold of what God offers, we come into conflict with what the world offers.  In this country, we’ve been blessed because we’ve have the freedom to do that.  In spite of what the revisionists and the skeptics tell us, this nation was founded by men who for all their faults and failures had some respect for the Word of God and the principles of Christianity.  They were wary of an “established religion,” having seen and experienced firsthand the evils of a “state church,”  which is what the First Amendment is designed to prevent,  but they were not in favor of an “established irreligion,” either.

By the way, liberals, skeptics and unbelievers actually need to read the First Amendment. Though it says several other things, the very first thing it says is this:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” (emphasis added).

“Prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

Washington and our other governments should take note of that phrase.

Verse 8 contrasts with verse 7, which was about those who overcome.  Verse 8 is about those who are overcome.  The world may think little of these 8 sins, and even rejoice in their “right” to do some of them, but God says otherwise, and the day will come which will decide who is right.

The idea has become popular that there is nothing beyond the grave.  We die and that’s it.  (If you’ve recently lost a loved one, I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to add to your grief.)

Scripture tells us this is not true.  There is an eternity beyond the grave.  For those who know the Lord Jesus, there is life, a life we can only imagine – and that not very well.  There’s so much more than harps and clouds.  But for those apart from the Lord Jesus, there is only existence – in what Revelation 21:8 calls “the second death” (emphasis added).  We can’t begin to imagine that.

The old saying is that there are only two things which are certain:  death and taxes.  Well, one can finagle his way around taxes.  You can’t do that with death.  You can’t cheat it and you can’t beat it.

Only through the Lord Jesus is there escape.  He came to take the place of sinners and bore the judgment and wrath of God against sin.  He came to die in order that we might live.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

Revelation 20:7-15: The End.

7] Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison, 8] and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.  9] They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.  And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.  10] The devil, who deceived them, was cast it into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are.  And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

11] Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.  And there was found no place for them.  12] And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, bu the things which were written in the books.  13] The sea gave up the dead which were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.  And they were judged, each one according to his works.  14] Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  15] And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

In our last post, we looked at the first two of the four things contained in Revelation 20.  They were, 1) the binding of Satan, and, 2) the 1000 year reign of our Lord.  In this post, we want to consider the other two things.

1. The freeing of Satan from his prison, vs. 7-10.

We might ask, why is Satan freed, v. 7?  Has he served his sentence?  “Paid his debt?”  Is he out on parole?

Why is he let go?  What purpose could possibly be served in letting this archenemy of God and man loose?

Verses 8-10 give us the answer.

Satan immediately sets about to gather together the nations of mankind and rally them against God and His people.  And he is successful.  He will demonstrate once and for all that unrenewed human nature is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be, Romans 8:7.  For 1000 years, Satan has not been able to deceive or mislead a single person, but will be bound and imprisoned – in a “solitary confinement” no earthly prison can begin to approach.  An environment as ideal as possible has been established on the earth.  War has been abolished and peace reigns universally.  Government will be just and righteousness, with no trace of the corruption so often associated with it.  Slums will be cleared away; there will be no “underprivileged” class.  The problems of pollution will be done away with.  Human longevity will be greatly increased, and death and disease, though still present, will be greatly curtailed.  “Evil influences” will be publicly unavailable and righteousness will be the order of the day.  Weather and physical changes on the earth will be beneficial and fertility will be greatly increased.

But, does all this blessing and improvement lead men to turn to God?  Psalm 18:44, As soon as they hear of me they obey me; the foreigners submit to me, and 66:3, say to God, “How awesome are Your works!  Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You,” indicate otherwise.  The margins of both verses translate “submit” as “feigned obedience”.  Though everything on the surface seems to be ok, it will be seen to be only a superficial conformity to the rule of the Lord Jesus.  Human nature may be restrained by force and justice, but it can be renewed only by grace.  Isaiah 26:10 says, Let favour be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD (KJV).  In fact, it often has the opposite effect,  Exodus 8:15; Ecclesiastes 8:11.  1000 years of “favour” will be showed, but multitudes indeed will not “learn righteousness.”

But doesn’t the Millennium start will everybody being saved?  Where do all these rebels come from?  Remember those who survive the Great Tribulation and are accounted “righteous” at the judgment of the nations will enter the Millennium, Matthew 25:34.  Unlike the OT and church saints, who will be in glorified bodies, these will still be in their natural bodies.  They will have children.  The favorable conditions and long lives will probably result in a great increase in population.  But these children, born under such different conditions as we know, will still be born sinners, Romans 3:23, and will still need to be saved.  Those who aren’t saved will become the rebels.  Once and for all, God will show that it is their nature and not a poor environment or the lack of education which makes men sinners.  They, and we, are born to it.

Verse 9 shows the result of this rebellion:  utter destruction.

This is the final scene of the last act of this earth’s history.  Man still refuses to bow to the God who created Him.

V. 10 shows the final judgment on Satan:  he joins the Antichrist and the false prophet in the lake of fire.  Many have difficulty accepting what these verses plainly teach: that hell is a place of torment, not annihilation, and it is forever and ever.  Though it may be said that this verse refers only to the Devil, the Antichrist and the False Prophet, Scripture teaches no other fate for those who go there than what we read here.

2. The Great White Throne judgment, vs. 11-15.

This judgment isn’t the same as the judgment recorded in Matthew 25:31-46.  Matthew records the judgment of nations before the Millennium; Revelation records the judgment of individuals after the Millennium, indeed after all human history is over and time itself, at least as we know it, is no more.  These verses are looking into eternity.

This is not a trial in any sense of the word.  Many have the idea that our “good” and our “bad” will be weighed in the balance and whichever is more determines our eternal destiny.  This is not a “general judgment” to determine such destiny, but a sentencing of the unsaved according to their works.  And John 3:18 says that, apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, we are condemned already.

No one will escape this judgment.  Even those long lost in the uncharted depths of the ocean will be there.  I don’t understand the references to “Death and Hades” in vs. 13 and 14, but it doesn’t matter.  God knows what He is doing.  No one will escape judgment.

V. 15 has the only “ray of hope” in this dark scene.  There is a “Book of Life.”  Those whose names are found there, and they only, escape being sent to the Lake of Fire.

While there is life, there is hope.  But after life is over, so is hope.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.