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Revelation 21:1-8: The Blessing of Heaven Print E-mail
Revelation
Sunday, 08 July 2012

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When Glenna and I were dating, I would often ask her questions like: ĎWhat is your ideal meal or ideal day or ideal vacation?í I am not trying to give anyone any dating tips (in fact, I cannot help but laugh a little that we did this), but it did help me get to know my future bride. In particular, it taught me what she valued. And if you really want to know what makes a person tick, then you need to know what they treasure. So then, let me ask you a question this morning: what is your ideal way to spend eternity? What do you want to do forever (literally forever)? And I want more than just the ĎI want to go to heavení answer. The question I am asking is what do you want heaven to be like? What treasure do you want to spend all of eternity on?

Many different religions define heaven in particular ways (and how they define it says a lot about what they believe).  But what about Christians?  What do we believe about heaven?  Over the next couple of weeks we are going to look at the primary passages on heaven in the New Testament.  They are not the only passages, but they are the ones most often referenced when we are thinking or discussing heaven.  As we begin to look at what John says about heaven this morning, let me try and identify his main point (and what defines heaven for the Christian): the blessing of heaven is the presence of God with His people.  This is the heart of Johnís vision of heaven.  All of the blessings that he mentions (which we will be looking at over the next couple of weeks) flow from the blessing of being in His presence.  John says as much a couple of times in our passage this morning.  First look at verse 3.  Amazing. 

Meditating on this verse for the past six months has been good for my soul.  Through the gracious work of the Lamb who was slain, God is going to dwell with His people forever.  That last phrase just overwhelms me: God himself will be with them as their God.  All of the many blessings that we will enjoy in eternity flow from this great blessing.  Look also at verse 7.  God will be with us.  We will belong to Him and His presence will be with us forever.  This is heaven for the Christian.  This is what we long for.  As the old hymn says: ďJust one glimpse of Him in glory will the toils of life repay.Ē 1  I do not want us to lose sight of this as we look at Johnís vision of heaven over the next two weeks.  Today, I want us to spend the rest of our time focusing on two thoughts: first, we should consider the other blessings that John mentions in this passage that will flow from Godís presence and second, we need to once again consider who will and will not receive these blessings.

Blessings from being in Godís presence (or Further blessings from the Blessing):

Johnís vision begins with the blessing of the new heavens and the new earth.  Look at verse 1.  As we mentioned last week, the first heaven and the first earth fled away from the presence of God (20:11).  Thus, God created a new heaven and a new earth.  They could be similar to the old, but the emphasis is that they will be new.  In fact, God says in verse 5: Behold, I am making all things new.  The new heaven and the new earth will not be infected with sin.  It will be free from the curse that manís rebellion brought in Genesis 3.  And unlike the old heaven and old earth, it will not flee from the presence of God, but will be inhabited by it.

Next John sees the blessing of the new Jerusalem.  Look at verse 2.  Once again the newness is stressed.  It will be a new city.  John will go on to describe the new Jerusalem in v. 9-27, which we will look at next week.  Here I just want to note a couple of things.  First, the new Jerusalem is both a people and a place.  John calls her the bride here and in verse 9, so she is made up of the Church, the Bride of Christ.  But the language also seems to point to the new Jerusalem being a place as well.  Heaven has come to earth so that God may dwell with His people.  This will be even more clear as we look at the passage next week.  Second, I also want to note the fact that John says that the city is coming down from God.  He is the source of all our blessings.  The new heaven and the new earth and the new Jerusalem are from Him.

Finally, John notes the blessing of the new life.  Look at verse 4.  John is describing something new here.  Ever since the Fall, man has toiled and suffered and wept and died.  Life is hard and difficult.  But all that will change when we enter into the presence of God to dwell with Him forever.  No more tears.  No more death.  No more mourning or crying or pain.  No more.  This is what it will mean to dwell in the presence of our God.  Sin has radically, terribly impacted all of life.  Yet, the work of Christ has overcome.  Through Him we have the promise of eternal life.  And not eternal life like we have it now (full of suffering and pain), but life like we have never known, free of sickness, free of persecution, free of weariness, free of loneliness, free of tears.  God will take all of this away, for the former things have passed away.  Goodbye pain, goodbye diabetes and cancer and heart disease.  Goodbye loss, goodbye separation, goodbye death.  You have no place in the presence of our God.  One of my commentators write: ďLife as we know it is completely replaced by the new order.Ē 2  Life lived in the presence of God will be a glorious blessing indeed.

Who will receive and who will not receive the blessing:

As John has done throughout this book, he makes it plain again who will enjoy these blessings and who will not.  The Lord speaks in verses 5-6.  Look at those with me.  God says: I am making all things new.  What is interesting about this statement is that the verbs are not in the future tense.  God is not just going to make things new, He is already making things new.  Paul says that if anyone is in Christ then they are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  By turning from our sins and trusting in Christís death at the cross, we become a part of Godís new creation.  He started this with the coming of Christ and He will complete it with the new heavens and the new earth.  So then, even now, God is making all things new.  Sin has radically impacted your existence.  It has wreaked havoc in your life and in my life.  But the glorious good news is that through faith in Christ you are becoming new.  Remember that the next time the Lord brings suffering and difficulty in your life.  He is using the hardships of this life to make us new, to prepare us for the eternity that we will spend with Him.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  He is bringing His plans and His purposes to fruition.  Just as sure as He made the first heaven and the first earth, so will He make the new heaven and the new earth.  He will give water to the thirsty and new life to His people.

So then, who will enjoy these blessings?  Look at verse 7.  These blessings which flow from the Blessing will be given to the one who conquers.  This is the same term that Jesus used to encourage the seven churches in Asia (ch. 2-3).  The blessings that He describes there are given to the one who conquers, the one who endures and does not give up in the face of temptation and persecution.  John writes to those Churches (and to us) to encourage us to persevere in the faith.  We are not to give up or give in.  We are not to compromise in our beliefs and our love for one another.  We are not to be given to sin and idolatry.  No, we are to endure.  We are to have faith.  We are to conquer through our trust in the Lamb who has conquered for us (12:11). 

What will happen to those who do not endure?  What will happen to those who abandon their profession of faith?  What will happen to those who refuse to repent and continue in their sin?  John tells us of their fate again in verse 8.  Look at that with me.  Those who do not persevere and give in to sin will face the lake of fire, the second death.  The people there will be cowardly (possibly referring to those who do not hold fast to their faith but give in to emperor worship for the sake of their own skin), faithless (including those who abandon their profession as well as those who never profess faith), detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars.  None of these will be welcome in the presence of God.  They will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.

Thus, the division is between the conquerors and the cowardly, those who overcome and those who give in, those who trust in Christ and those who trust in something else.  Once again, the point is clear: you will belong to one of these two groups and all of eternity hangs in the balance.  If you are here this morning and you have never turned from your sins and trusted in Christ, then you need to realize that you belong to the group that is going to the lake of fire.  You need to recognize that you are a sinner.  Sure you may not commit all of these sins (or even many of them) but you are a sinner in need of forgiveness.  The good news is that God has provided the forgiveness you so desperately need by sending His Son to take your place on the cross.  If you turn from your sins and trust in Him, then you can be saved.  You can exchange an eternity in hell for an eternity in the presence of the God who saved you and made you His own.

People often warn us that we do not need to be so heavenly minded that we become no earthly good.  I understand the idea, but it does not make much sense in light of the New Testamentís teaching on heaven.  Rather, I believe the more we are heavenly minded, the more earthly good we will become.  Think about some of the different ways that Johnís vision can be applied to our lives today.  His promise of heaven and eternity in Godís presence gives us great motivation to endure when times are hard on this earth.  We may not be facing the persecution that the seven churches in Asia faced, but even so, the promise of future rest encourages endurance.  Likewise, again, we see that God will be just in the end, so we do not have to concern ourselves with personal vengeance or personal injustice.  The Lord will make all things right, we can trust in Him and look to Him.  Or think about how discouraging the news can be.  Sometimes it seems like everything is falling down all around us.  Yet, in reality, even though we cannot always see it, God is making all things new.  He is preparing a people who will dwell with Him forever.

One final application that I want to emphasize is how this passage calls us to see God as our treasure.  What is your ideal way to spend eternity?  How about dwelling in the presence of God forever?  If that sounds terribly unappealing to you, then you may have something else as your treasure (idolater) and may not be headed for heaven at all.  But if God is your treasure and you are learning everyday how to treasure Him even more, then take hope and be encouraged, for He will give you all of eternity to enjoy Him forever!!  Amen.

1 Taken from ďWhen We All Get to Heaven.Ē
2 Leon Morris, Revelation TNTC (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), p. 234.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 20 July 2012 )

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