Monday, August 31, 2015

The Final Act

Sunday we had our final lesson on Revelation, looking at chapter 21 and the new heaven and earth ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

In a few years from now, in an amusement park not so far away, there's going to be the most awesome addition ever.

Yes, Disney has announced that both Disneyland and Disney World are going to open "Star Wars Land," 14 acres of Tattooine, the Death Star, Jawas, droids, and hopefully a "dunk Jar-Jar" water booth.

The Disney CEO promises a "jawdropping new world."

(In case you need a reminder, we're only about 110 days from the new "Star Wars" movie.)

Needless to say, my level of expectation is high.

How does this connect with our study of Revelation?

Because as awesome as the new "Star Wars" movie can be, or the new park, it can’t begin to compare to what God is preparing for His people. There's a lot to look forward to with a new heaven and a new earth God will make for us.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

Revelation 21:1–22:21

*** This is our final session in Revelation. During our study we've seen glimpses of God's throne room (ch. 4), the Lamb who is worthy (ch. 5), redemption for believers (ch. 9) and last week we saw that Jesus defeats Satan (ch. 12).

*** In chapter 20, Satan and his minions were tossed into the lake of fire, the wicked were judged and all that's left are the believers and the heavenly host.

*** After a history of battles, of struggles, of setbacks, all the judgment, in the end there will be a glorious happy ending. Now that sin and death have been destroyed, all that’s left is eternal life.

*** This week we'll see the New Jerusalem with a new heaven and a new earth.

GOD’S NEW PROVISION (Rev. 21:1-2)

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. 2 I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

*** Our Big Fat Heavenly Wedding.

--- Verse 2 says that the New Jerusalem will be prepared "like a bride adorned for her husband."

Think of the images that suggests. The beauty of a wedding. Everyone dressed up. The bride spending hours getting ready to be the center of attention. The groom's eyes filled with joy as she walks down the aisle.

Think about all the times you've been in attendance for this moment (and at our ages, there have probably been at least a dozen apiece!): Why do you think people are so captivated at weddings when the bride makes her entrance?

--- It’s a common New Testament idea. In other passages, a bride has symbolized the redeemed people of God. For example, the apostle Paul compared a husband and wife to Christ and the church (see Eph. 5:25).

--- If your wife is like my Darling Valerie, you wish you could re-do your wedding day at least once a year. A human bride is most splendid on her wedding day; after that she puts away her wedding dress. For this heavenly bride, the radiance will never fade.

*** Out with the old, in with the new.

--- The opening verse of the Bible says that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1), and it was declared "very good" (Gen. 1:31). But now that world is deeply flawed, so near the end of Revelation, there's going to be a new heaven and a new earth that is perfect.

--- There's debate about whether the entire universe will be an entirely new creation, or just a transformation of the existing elements.

Isaiah 65:17–25 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-57 also talk about how the old world is changed so much that everything is like a new creation.

--- "The sea no longer existed."

(Sorry, ladies, no beaches in heaven? Maybe large lakes with sandy beaches?)

This could reflect an ancient idea that the sea symbolized a source of evil, such as when the beast rises from the sea in Revelation 13:1. The oceans were seen as a source of chaos and sin (see Isaiah 57:20 – “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.”).

In Revelation 22:5, and perhaps with similar meaning, we learn that in the new creation “night will no longer exist.” Night, like the sea, could be seen as a source of evil. See 1 Thess. 5:5-7.

--- The New Jerusalem is like an even better Garden of Eden.

GOD’S PRESENCE CELEBRATED (Rev. 21:3-4)

3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.

*** Reasons to celebrate.

--- A voice proclaims from the heavenly throne room the good news.

*** God will dwell with His people.

--- Just as God walked among Adam and Eve before the fall, we will be among Him.

--- In the Old Testament God’s presence was made known through the sacred tent in the wilderness, then the Ark of the Covenant, and finally in the temple.

--- In the New Testament, John proclaimed that “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us” (John 1:14). Jesus was fully human among us and fully divine.

--- Celebrate having fellowship with The One for all time!

*** A new you.

--- This is a new way of being human, free of things like sorrow and pain.

In this new form, even Captain Kirk in “Star Trek 5” will be proven wrong when he said that “You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away! I need my pain!”

--- Recall what is written in Isaiah 65:17 – “The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”

*** Question - What pain or circumstance that will no longer exist in New Jerusalem do you think people look forward to the most?

THE PROMISE FULFILLED (Rev. 21:5-7)

5 Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life. 7 The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.

*** God speaks.

--- This time it's the One seated on the throne, the Big Kahuna Himself, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, who guarantees that what John has seen will come true.

--- God made good on every prophecy. Our Creator promised that the redeemed would live for eternity in a new creation (Isaiah 65:17-19). Jesus told His disciples, “I am going away to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). Now here it is.

--- Just as Paul wrote that for those who are come to Christ, the old is gone and the new creation is come (2 Cor. 5:17), we will literally be free from the old creation.

*** Water, water everywhere.

--- The "living water" is all over the Bible as an example of salvation. Being thirsty means you need Christ; drinking means you trust what He provides.

--- Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that "whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)

--- Then in John 7:37-38, Jesus issued His great invitation in these terms: “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”

--- In Isaiah 55:1, God invited people to salvation with these words: “Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters.”

--- Those who admit their need and put their faith in Jesus will receive eternal life.

*** Victory is ours!

--- There are two final destinies for every person who has ever lived. The destiny of those without a saving relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ ends in the lake of fire. Those who are saved win the final victory and eternal life in the New Jerusalem.

--- Recall our study of Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the letters from Jesus to the churches. He promised that those who heeded the warnings, obeyed and stayed loyal to Him would win the victory.

--- Paul wrote of his own race being won, the victory in sight: 2 Timothy 4:7-8 - "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

*** Question – What race are you running that you can’t wait to end?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

What changes would you make to your home if you could rebuild it from the ground up?

What makes a house feel so much better if it's been fixed up, rearranged or just cleaned?

We love new things, don't we? We love nice things, beautiful things. The new earth will be full of new things!

(Even better, we'll have new, resurrected bodies!)

*** John saw four images in 21:1-7: a bride adorned for her husband; tears being wiped from people’s eyes; the thirsty receiving the gift of living water; and God adopting believers as His children.

--- Each image carries an appealing emotion that gives us hope for a future in heaven.

*** Celebrate! The New Jerusalem will be a place without grief. It will be a place of eternal fellowship with God!

--- Even better, there's room for everyone who believes!

No comments: