The following notes and audio are by Keeley Chorn, co-teacher for Young Women’s Bible Study. Press play on the player below to listen to this message. Or to download to your computer – On a PC right-click “download audio” and select “Save As Target.” On a Mac Ctrl+click “download audio” and choose “Download linked file as.”
Tonight, I want to start by reading a little bit to you from C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. It’s the last book in the series and it’s called The Last Battle. In it, Lewis tries to explain the difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia. As you listen, think about your reading in Rev 21-22 of the New Heavens and Earth. (This story is going to give us a picture of what that new earth is like).
“It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking-glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different-deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean.” (Lewis,The Last Battle, 212-3)
Tonight we’re going to look at God’s glorious picture of the New Heavens and Earth. I want you to think back over our past few lessons, what are some things we’ve spoken of happening at the 2nd coming?
- spoke about judgment: either you have believed in Christ as savior and been covered by his blood and his work on the cross at the judgment, or you stand based on your own works, which over and over the Bible tells us is not sufficient to win any favor with God: only trusting your life to him is.
- God’s kingdom becoming kingdom on earth
Great, these are all things that will happen at the 2nd coming. The last picture we get from Revelation is this vision of Rev 21-22: the New Heavens and Earth. Get out your Bibles. We’re going to be flipping around, and I want you to look at and see the different passages we’re discussing. Open to Revelation 21… We’re going to look in these chapters at 3 sections; we’re going to organize it into 3 parts: 1) A Preview of the New Heavens and Earth in Ch. 21:1-8, 2) A Description of the City in 21:9-22:5, and 3) A Final Call in 22:6-21.
Revelation 21:1-8: A Preview of the New Heavens and Earth
First, 21:1-8: A Preview. The first 8 verses are a sort of bridge from last week’s talk, where Ashley went through the sections on the judgment of all people, either to eternal life or death in the lake of fire. The verses we went through ended with the judgment and a focus on the negative side of God’s judgment: what happens to those who don’t believe. (I know last week’s material was tough. I know many of you left with a lot of questions about God and left feeling burdened. But Ashley pointed us to the hope that we have in Christ as well. ) These 8 verses show us the positive side of God’s judgment, what happens to those who do believe. This is what’s in store for those who believe and are covered in the blood of Christ, who have washed their robes in his blood. These verses also give us a preview of what we’ll see in the rest of Chs. 21 and 22. This vision is so beautiful and important. Let’s look at some of it together.
Read Rev 21:1-5
“1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, 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 every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.””
What are some things that John sees? What do we learn in this passage?
- We learn about the New heaven and earth, New Jerusalem, bride, God dwelling with man, being their God
- he will wipe away their tears, no more death or mourning or crying or pain!
I want to focus right now on two things in this section: the “old” order of things and the “new” order of things…
The “old” order of things
Verse 4 speaks of “the old order of things” passing away and verse 5 of God “making everything new.” These verses tell of a start of something new, a new creation that will happen. Turn to 2 Cor 5:17, Paul says here that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Interesting…Paul uses the exact language that John in Revelation has used. Paul also says that “the old has passed away” (but Paul’s not talking about the 2nd coming, he’s speaking in the past tense in his own day). He says the new has come. The new has already broken into the current creation.
Why does he say we are a new creation if we’re in Christ? Why does Paul say this? Well, when we were baptized and believed, scripture tells us that we entered into Christ’s death and resurrection. So if anyone is in Christ, you have entered into new creation. We’ve entered into Christ’s triumph over death and the old “order” of things.
We, like Jesus, will receive resurrected bodies. Our current bodies won’t be destroyed, like his wasn’t, but they will be transformed and immortal. Jesus, in his resurrected body, ate, drank, was recognizable to his friends, had scars, but was also glorious beyond words. Jesus’ resurrected body shows us what happens to the old order of things when they have been made new… When God says he is making all things new, it doesn’t mean he is making them from scratch, but he’s taking what we see in the current, or old, order of things and making them glorious, transforming them.
Back in Revelation 21, verse 1, it says that “the first heaven and the first earth passed away.” The heaven and earth we know of are part of the old order of things then. Well, what does that mean for our current earth? What happens to the earth we live on? Is it destroyed, is it burned up, where does it go? Is it worth caring for how we treat the earth?
Read Romans 8:18-22:
“18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
This passage, in verse 19, says that the creation waits in eager expectation. So the creation is waiting for the 2nd coming. Verse 21 says that at that time, the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage, and it will be brought into glorious freedom.
That doesn’t sound like the earth is going to be destroyed and burned up, does it? Paul is saying that the earth too is waiting for redemption, like our bodies are. So when Rev 21:1 says that “a new heaven and a new earth” come, we see not a death to the old, but a new creation. A freedom from the effects of sin and the curse that the earth has been under since Adam first sinned. It will be glorious, that is what the new heavens and earth will be, a redeemed and whole and perfect form of what we currently see around us, of all the beauty that we are able to see even now, but in much greater form. So our bodies and our current earth will be made imperishable, they will be new creations.
The New Order of Things
So Revelation 21:1-5 gives us a glimpse of what new creation will look like. There will be no more tears, no more death or crying or pain. There will be new, resurrected bodies, and a new heaven and earth. Remember the story I just read from C.S. Lewis, he described the new order by saying: “it’s like looking into that mirror, but seeing that things are in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time, they were somehow different-deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.” The opening section of Rev 21 gives us a picture of the new order of things.
So, is this vision of the new heavens and new earth, something that came along in the NT? Have you even heard of this before? Well, this is not a new story. This isn’t something new that Jesus spoke when he came, actually, the new heavens and the new earth were prophesied about, long before Jesus ever came. Turn to Isaiah 65:17-20… I want you to see the similarities between what the OT prophesied and what John saw.
“17 “Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.
20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years;
Isaiah prophesies of this future peace, of the New Heavens and Earth, of a New Jerusalem that will be a joy and a delight to his people. He goes on to say that they will dwell there, they will build houses that will be theirs forever, they will plant vineyards and eat the fruit, and no longer will they toil in vain. So back in Revelation 21, John sees a vision of this same New Heavens and Earth, this same New Jerusalem that Isaiah had prophesied about nearly 2500 years ago.
Revelation 21:9-22:5: A Description of the City
So, let’s turn to the 2nd section of our reading Chapter 21:9-22:5. If the first 8 verses of the chapter gave us a preview of the New Heavens and Earth and the New Jerusalem, this next section gives us a description of them. The section from verses 9-14 describes the New Jerusalem. Look in verse 9, an angel says to John, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the lamb.” Remember that in the past few weeks, we’ve talked about how the bride of Christ is the church. In verse 10, the angel takes John up “in the Spirit to a mountain great and high” to show him the bride, and he sees a city coming down out of heaven from God. The city is the bride, it is the church. In verse 11, it says the city shines “with the glory of God, and its brilliance is like that of a very precious jewel.” In verses 12-14, we see the number 12 showing up again with the 12 tribes of Israel represented in the gates of the city and the 12 apostles in the foundation of the city. The entire church of the OT and NT is represented and seen in this city.
In verses 15-17, John sees the angel measure the city. The NIV translation keeps the original numbers, so that we can see their symbolic significance. We see a multiple of the number 12 again. The city is 12,000 stadia in length, and in width, and in height. It’s a perfect cube. But just to give you a visual of the size of what is described here, 12,000 stadia is equal to roughly 1,400 miles. This is roughly the distance from here to Los Angeles. So the length is described as the distance from Dallas to LA (this is a city), the width is the same length, and so is the height. Well, when the World Trade Center was still standing, it was only one ¼ of a mile tall. ¼ of a mile. This city is 1400 miles high. My point isn’t to tell you this will literally be the dimensions of the city, I don’t know, but these numbers are the same highly symbolic numbers we’ve seen over and over again the last few weeks.
Next, verses 18-21 speak of the beauty that this city and the bride are covered in. She is covered in rare and precious jewels. The bride is dressed for the final feast, decked in jewels for her husband, Christ (21:2). There are twelve of them. Twice in verses 18, then 21, we learn that the city and its streets are of pure gold, somehow as pure and transparent as glass.
No More Temple
Next, in verses 22-27, we see the fulfillment of two biblical themes. The first theme is God dwelling among his people: verse 22 says there is no more need for a temple, because God is the temple. God will dwell perfectly among his people. In the OT, God had to be separate from his people because of his holiness and their/our unholiness. In our broken condition, we weren’t given direct access to God, not until Jesus came. Through the Holy Spirit, we gained that access to God. He dwells in us now. We have a foretaste of that access to God.
God is Light
The second biblical theme is carried out in verse 23-25, is that of God as light. When Jesus came the first time, he said “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). We have a foretaste of it now, when we seek and follow God, he does enlighten us, “his word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto the way” (Ps 119:105). In the new city, we will know this perfectly. The sun and moon won’t be our sources of light, but God and the Lamb will be (see also Isa 60:19-20). Verse 24tells us that the nations will walk by the light of God. Like I saw a few weeks ago, our races and identities aren’t going to be wiped out. We’re not going to all look the same in heaven. Even here we see that the nations are visibly recognizable.
Verses 25-27 speak of the city’s security with no need for protection-the gates are open.Verse 27 says it’s a city that will only be inhabited by those whose names are written in the lamb’s book of life. This is the future for the church: for Christ’s bride, and we have a foretaste of it now.
Creation/New creation motifs
As we move into Ch. 22, we continue getting a picture of what this future city will be. The first 5 verses are meant to make us think of the Garden of Eden from Genesis 1-3. In verse 1, the angel shows John “the river of the water of life…flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, down the middle of the great street of the city.” In Gen 2:10 (through v. 14), there was a river that watered the entire garden. But now, it’s called the river of life. Ezekiel andJoel, OT prophets, spoke of the waters of life that God would give to his people (Ezek 47:12; Joel 3:18). If you were here last fall, you heard Ashley teaching on John 4, the Samaritan woman at the well, who Jesus offers living water (John 4:10-14). That living water, we learned in John 7 was the life that the Holy Spirit gives us (John 7:37-39). So we see that we have a foretaste even now of new creation. We have access to this river of life, through the Holy Spirit.
The waters of life, the Holy Spirit, give us rest when we’re weary. When you feel pulled in many directions, whether from too much travel or being in a new city. The living water from the Holy Spirit gives us peace and rest. It nourishes our soul, especially when we feel distant from God… we must ask for his Holy Spirit to fill us even more, to give us the water of life. God, through Christ, already offers us wholeness and restoration from our broken lives, even now.
Verse 2 recalls the tree of life, except now this tree super-abundant. It’s on both sides of the river, it has 12 different types of fruit on it, and it bears fruit once a month. And, notice that the garden is in the midst of the city. Our lives are moving towards a city, not a return to the garden. In verse 3, we see that the curse will be finally gone. We won’t be exhausted from our work and have little to show for it. We won’t feel like we have to prove ourselves to anyone. There will still be work, but no more toil in work. We know this because even Adam in the garden had work before the fall (he had to name the animals), but it was only after the fall that his work was hard and a burden. This work won’t be anything like we can imagine, because it won’t be under the curse. Work will be redeemed and transformed; it will be joyful and fulfilling.
Christ came and was crucified, died on the cross, to begin this work, to give us freedom from the effects of sin to show us what new creation is. This is what the NT is about. The new creation has begun and yet we see that there’s a radical transformation that’s still to come.
So, now we’ve learned a lot more about the New Heavens and Earth, about the new city called Jerusalem that is coming to this restored and whole earth.
We’ve seen that it’s a future hope, one that is still to come, but I’ve spoken of it as a foretaste, as something present already. We see glimpses of it in this earth already. This is what people mean when they speak of “the already/not-yet.” We have a foretaste of new creation already, but not yet fully.
So, it’s not just a totally future hope. God calls us now to be a part of his kingdom work, of bringing wholeness now to earth, living into the resurrection work Christ has begun. We are called to live this way, but we don’t do it out of duty, but out of love and thankfulness that God wants to have us be a part of his work, part of his will here on earth. We are motivated by what God has already started and what he’s done in our own lives.
How can you and I be a part of bringing God’s restoration right now in our own areas of life?
- engaging the work of “shalom,” restoring God’s peace
- in our relationships– apologizing and telling someone they hurt you instead of avoiding them
- to the earth– our part in caring for it-recycling, paying attention to things that corrupt- being a part of change; social causes that have eternal significance
Remember that Christ’s resurrection is what began the change in the old order of things on earth! Remember too, that Christ died to make this possible. His death and resurrection are what motivates us. Ultimately, he is the one who will accomplish it, but he graciously and lovingly invites us, calls us, to join him in his work.
Revelation 22:6-21: A Final Call
As we turn to the final section of these chapters, Ch. 22, verses 6-21, we see John, the angel and Christ all giving final exhortations, final encouragements for the church. In verse 6, the angel testifies to the trustworthiness of these words, of these visions. In verse 7, Christ reminds us that he is coming soon. In verse 8, John testifies that he heard and saw all these things, and then in verse 9, he does the same funny thing that Ashley brought out last time inRev 19:10. He’s so overwhelmed and taken aback by everything that’s been revealed to him that he falls down and worships the first thing he sees, the angel, who says “get up, don’t worship me, worship God.” Verse 10 says: the time is near.
In verses 12-16, Christ speaks again, reminding us of who he is, what he does and what we’ve already learned about him from the rest of the book of Revelation. He is coming soon, he gives his reward, he’s the beginning and the end, and he clothes us in his blood, gives eternal life, and judges the actions of those who aren’t wearing the clothes he bought for us with his life. He is the one who sent his angel to give this testimony for the churches, for us.
As the book ends in verses 17-21, we see even here an invitation to come to Christ (it’s kind of like the Bible’s last altar call). Even in the last verses of the Bible, God is still reaching out to people saying come to me. In verse 17, the Spirit and the bride, the church, say “Come!” All you who are thirsty: come. All who want to take the free gift of life: come. God doesn’t want us to miss his call, to miss this free gift which he gives willingly and lovingly, at the cost of his life.
Verses 18-19 describe what will happen to anyone who changes the words of this book. This may seem like a strange way to end, but it’s actually very similar to how the last book of the OT, Malachi, ends as well: with a blessing and a curse.
In verse 20, we hear Christ speaking again, saying these things are true. He says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Then we with John say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” And verse 21 ends with a benediction, like other letters, saying “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”
In conclusion, life on this earth matters. It’s the beginning of a life that will continue without end-this life is the precursor of the life on the new earth. When we follow Christ, and invite him into our lives, this has already begun; our lives have greater importance. Our lives take on purpose and meaning. We have purpose.
I want to close by reading to you from The Jesus Storybook Bible (by Sally Lloyd-Jones) about the end of Revelation:
“One day, John knew, Heaven would come down and mend God’s broken world and make it our true, perfect home once again. And he knew, in some mysterious way that would be hard to explain, that everything was going to be more wonderful for once having been so sad. And he knew then that the ending of The Story was going to be so great, it would make all the sadness and tears and everything seem like just a shadow that is chased away by the morning sun. ‘I’m on my way,’ said Jesus. ‘I’ll be there soon!’ John came to the end of his book. But he didn’t write ‘The End.’ Because, of course, that’s how stories finish. (And this one’s not over yet.) So instead, he wrote: ‘Come quickly, Jesus!’ Which, perhaps, is really just another way of saying… To be continued…”
Questions for Application and Discussion:
- How should the idea of new creation already being here, yet not being here fully, affect the way you live your life right now? How?
- What are ways that you personally can be a part of God’s plan for this earth?