INDUCTIVE STUDIES ON REVELATION
The New Jerusalem
THE SCRIPTURES (21:1-9)
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." 5 And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, "Write, for 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 to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7 "He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. 8 "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." 9 And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."
The night is truly over. Apart from the Bible, Lewis typically states it best in The Last Battle. At the end of the story, the children fear that Aslan (Jesus) is going to send them back to earth like He had done every other time before. They had been in a railway car when He had summoned them to Narnia this last time. Aslan: "You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be." Lucy said: "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often." "No fear of that," said Aslan. "Have you not guessed?" Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them. "There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are--as you used to call it in the Shadowlandsódead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."
And as He spoke He no longer looked to hem like a lion, but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."
THEOLOGICAL, SPIRITUAL, EMOTIONAL, AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF HEAVEN
It is surprising that John does not open this section with a physical description of heaven. It would have been easy for him to jump into a discussion of the physical characteristics of heaven which the Koran does: fountains, gold, 70 virgins per martyr, etc. Bible, although describing physical attributes, focuses first on the spiritual: God with us there, emotional: no more weeping, and psychological aspects of heaven: no more fear of death. He will do that starting in v. 10; however, at the beginning John actually describes the theological, spiritual, emotional, and psychological description of the New Jerusalem. The reason is that as important as the physical aspect of the New Jerusalem is, these other elements are far more important. Whereas many of us view going to heaven primarily as a change of location, it is actually far more than that.
Just think back on many of the wonderful times you have had in your life. Many times the location, money, fame, etc., played no part in making those times wonderful. My mom told me that the happiest time in her marriage with my dad was when they were just newlywed and pretty much dirt poor. They would be in bed on a cold winter's night; the heat radiator would go off, and my dad would have to jump out of bed into the cold air and kick the radiator to get it going again. He would inevitably stump his toe and howl; both he and mom would start laughing--once he quit howling and it was safe to laugh! Love and joy had nothing to do with location, other than their being located next to each other.
If location were the most important point of heaven, then people living in Switzerland should be the happiest people on the face of the earth. Well, not all who live in Zurich are all that happy. The municipal government hands out free syringes to drug users so that they won't get and spread AIDS. Now that is not a joyous existence even though they are living in one of the most beautiful spots in the entire world!
The moral and emotional aspects of heaven dominate the description of the future in other NT passages. What kind of crowns did Paul promise us first in 1 Thess. 2:19 and second in 2 Tim. 4:8?
John's initial description of heaven focuses on the ethical, emotional, psychological elements of heaven. Look at 2 major characteristics of heaven which may explain all the joy that is there.
Second, if God is all we think He is, if He is as good as we think He is, if He is as loving as we think He is, if He is as joyous as we think He is, then being in His presence is going to be worth dying for. What is even more marvelous is that as wonderful as we sense He is, He is even more wonderful. We have only begun to taste of the goodness and the beauty of the Lord.
This reminds me of experiencing my mom's chocolate pie. After she cooked the chocolate pudding, she would dish it into her baked pie crust. A little bit of chocolate would still cling to the pot in which she cooked the pudding. She would let me lick the pot. It was wonderful. It was heaven on earth. But even better, it was just a taste of what was yet to come because she had just put the full pie into the oven to brown the meringue. The best was yet to come. That is the same kind of experience we are about to have. As wonderful as it has been to know God here on earth, the best is yet to come when we will experience Him to the fullest of our capacities.
After v. 4 says that God will wipe away every tear, what does John say will not be in the new heaven and the new earth?
Why does John focus on these things before describing the glories of heaven? Although we in the USA live a charmed life, people in general and Christians in particular throughout the centuries have not always enjoyed such a wonderful life. Death permeates nearly every society. Just look at the # of cemeteries and grave plots we have in our cities alone. Think about some of the great monuments people have constructed throughout the years: the pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Napoleon's Tomb--all monuments to DEATH. In spite of the way death has dominated the human scene, its reign is about to end. What does Paul actually say about the future of death in 1 Cor. 15:26?
One song writer puts it like this about Christ: "the Death of death."
What does God who is sitting on the throne of the universe say that He is doing (verse 5)?
There are 2 words for "new" in the Greek language: kainos (pron. KAI-nahs) and neos (pron. NEH-ahs). "Neos" means new in time, like a new-born baby. "Kainos" means new in kind, like a the hard-working sweaty man who steps out of the shower and feels like a brand new man. He is not new in time (he is a man); he is new in kind. That is the kind of newness God is speaking about here. God is not going to give us a spanking brand new universe which is just a few minutes old; rather, He is going to transform the universe so radically like He did His Son Jesus at the resurrection that for all practical purposes it is as good as new!
The process of transforming the universe has already started. When we confessed Christ as Savior and Lord, Christ came to live within us so that we might truly become sons and daughters of God. He lives within us now so that He can actually transform us to be like Him, God the Son. In fact, what does God promise those who overcome the Antichrist and resist the temptation to escape persecution by following the Antichrist (v. 7)?
This is not beautiful poetry. It is a realistic picture of what awaits the Christian.
So much for the introductory remarks concerning the Christians. Now John addresses what awaits the non-Christian, especially those who yield to the Antichrist. The words that fill in the blanks will help you understand particularly the ones John is addressing: "But for the (1) _______________ and (2) ______________ and (3) _______________ and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (21:8).
The three blanks and their meaning:
1. They feared the Antichrist rather than feared God during the Great Tribulationn.
2. They refused to believe what God was saying to them through the plagues.
3. They supported the Abomination of Desolations.
Each of the terms following those who are thrown into the lake of fire probably in some way or other need to be interpreted in light of those followers of the Anntichrist (whether the final Antichrist or other Satanic Antichrists who have risen throughout history, such as Hitler, Stalin, Domitian, Nero, etc.).