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The main themes of Revelation:
1) The church and the state are on a collision course. Initial victory will appear to belong to the state. Thus, he warns the church that suffering and death lie ahead; indeed, it will get far worse before it gets better.
2) True saints in Christ must endure by faith: He is greatly concerned that we do not capitulate in the time of tribulation, but that we endure to the end.
3) God is in control of all things: Christ holds the keys to history and holds the churches in his hands. Therefore, the church emerges triumphant, even through death. God will in turn pour out his wrath in judgment upon those who caused this suffering and death and bring eternal rest to the faithful.
Today, we are going to finish the book by talking about “Heaven”. This is an exciting topic. People – everyone - sing songs about it. Everyone.
- In the 80’s Canadian Bryan Adams found it hard to believe that he had found “Heaven” in the arms of a girl, while hair band Warrant reminded us that “Heaven isn’t too far away”
- Led Zepplelin climbed a “Stairway to Heaven” while Guns N’ Roses were “Knocking of Heaven’s Door”, Eric Clapton wondered if there’d be “Tears in Heaven”. The Talking Heads grumbled that in “Heaven” – nothing ever happens.
- A band called Los Lonely Boys wondered “How far is Heaven” The singer frets guiltily over his past and promises to reform, but wants to know just how good one has to be to attain paradise. "I know I have to change my ways of living," he says, "I just want to know how far."
- One of the moving performaces many people have ever seen came after 9/11 when the band U2 sang about “Where the Streets Have No Name” during the Superbowl with the names of the victims scrolling behind.
- The most recent song I could find revealing a longing for heaven is by an orthodox Jewish Reggae rapper called “One Day” in which he longs for a day when there will be no more fighting, “no more wars and our children will play”
Yet at the same time we sing about heaven – we don’t talk about heaven much. Either it seems too mysterious, or we may guiltily have a deep down suspicion that it doesn’t seem that exciting to us. Heaven, the way we envision it, seems tame and, dare we say, boring. We can’t imagin eternity. What will we do all that time? Will we be bored? Like the farside cartoon – “I wish I’d brought a magazine.” So we build our functional heavens on earth.
If our vision of heaven is insufficient, our appreciation of our saviour will be as well. If Heaven doesn’t excite you, can it be true that Jesus does?
I am going to let you in on a little secret, and it may possibly rock your world – there is no “heaven” – at least not how we normally conceive it. The end of the bible, in talking about our eternal home, does not speak of a spiritual home in the clouds, in which we fly away to be with God. We think of heaven as where God lives – and so when we die, we leave earth to go to live with him. The bible teaches the exact opposite. At the end, God moves in with us (Rev 21:1-3). The place he is preparing for us now in heaven, will come down out of heaven and be located on the new earth, in which we will live forever.
Edwards: “It becomes us to spend this life only as a journey to heaven . . . to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labour for or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness.”
Prelude: The End of All Things
Before there can be a new beginning, there must be an ending. In Revelation 20, human history as we know it comes to an end. The end is almost anti-climactic. Satan, that great deceiver and enemy of the saints is tossed aside, utterly defeated. Yet all is still not finished. For there still remains, tied to the former creation, corruption, rebellion and death. The seed of Eve has crushed Satan’s head, but the effects of his rebellion still linger on. The last vision the John has of this present creation is that of it fleeing before the throne of the Lord, for it as well continues to bear the stain of the curse. Before the throne there is an assembly – now this is not the same assembly before the throne that we saw in chapter 6 singing, “Salvation belongs to our God, and unto the lamb!” This is not a happy assembly, but a somber one. All of the dead – every one who was ever lived, your friends, your grandmother, your sister, your neighbor – are brought before the Lord to receive a judgment that will determine their ultimate destiny. For although we are going to talk a lot about the (heaven) new earth this morning, you have to understand that the new earth is not our default destination. Every one’s works are revealed before the Lord, pictured as having been recorded in a set of books. Every word you ever spoke, every thought you ever thought, every act you ever did or failed to do will be inspected by the eyes of the Lord. What gives Jesus the right to judge us? Well, because he became one of us, tempted in every way as one of us, yet was without sin. The man Jesus Christ is the only human being in the entire history of humanity, who would be able to stand before God and have every single one of his works commended. The rest of us, however will shrink from his gaze. We tend to think of this judgment in a completely unbiblical way. If you talk to most people, they think of this judgment like a weighted scale. So that the good stuff we’ve done offsets the bad and if we can get over fifty percent or so we’ve done pretty well. This is why, for every person who knows they are going to hell, over 100 think they are going to heaven. However; this is more like the judgment at a nightclub with a bouncer. If there is any reason why you should not be denied entrance, you’re off the list. We already saw the heavens and earth flee away from the throne of the Lord because corruption remained in them, yet the corruption remains in us. Our works are judged because they reveal our orientation. And our orientation is set against God and toward ourselves, indeed toward the serpent. So Jesus cannot let us into his heaven – because we’d mess it up! If revelation has taught us anything, is that we are in continual rebellion against God – destroying the earth and destroying each other – you want that in heaven? All humanity have been inspected and judged and have been found, like the people of Noah’s generation, found filled with corruption. And just as that generation was destroyed with water before a new world could start anew, the world that began in Eden and all it’s inhabitants stained by the curse we brought on ourselves, will be destroyed with fire, before the new world is ushered in. Even as John goes on to describe his vision of heaven, he underscores this point again and again to make sure we get it. Rev 21:7-8: The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Rev 21:26-27 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Yet, Jesus opens another book – called the book of life. Those whose names are written in this book
Further Up and Further In (exploring the New Earth):
Vision #1: All Things New
Wipe away every tear from there eyes, and death shall be no more,
Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain,
for the former things have passed away
And he who was seated on the throne says, “Behold, I am making all things new”
Further up and further in!
Vision #2: The City That Never Sleeps
- · The height of luxury – God lavishes – dimensions and jewels both speak to the superabundant luxury. Hotel hopping in Beijing.
- · This city is cool for what it doesn’t need
o No Temple – Temple signifies intercession. Now that the kingdom has been handed over to God, and all people have been made holy, his dwelling is with his people and we all have access to the father.
o No Night – This is the city on the hill that cannot be hidden. The city of eternal day. I don’t think this will be the only place in the new earth (by it’s light will the nations walk), but this city is always open for business. It is the city that never sleeps.
Further up and further in!
Vision #3: Life From the Throne
- · The River: Thirst quenching, life giving water – water of life
- · Flowing down, underscoring the throne’s exalted position
- · Tree of life – what we lost in Eden, we have now gained back, in connection with Jesus – no more tree of testing, only the tree that never withers.
Climax: The face of Jesus: 22:4. This is the centre of the New Heavens and the New Earth. We see Jesus’ face, and his character is reflected back in us (his name on our foreheads)
The Words of Jesus:
- · This is True (22:6)
- · I am coming Soon (22:7)
- · Judgment is coming (22:12)
- · Blessed are the repentant and forgiven (22:13)
- · The Oath (22:16)
The conclusion to the book: Come (22:17,20)