God's End Game - Part 50
Series: God's End Game
February 23, 2020
God’s End Game - Part 50
We will finish out this series by covering the last two chapters of the last book of the Bible, which is very fitting since we began in the first few chapters of the first book of the Bible.
No other part of Scripture intersects with the whole of God’s Word more than the book of Revelation. And this is particularly true of the last two chapters.They point back the to the creation and fall in Genesis. They echo the imagery of much Old Testament prophecy. They not only have Jesus as their central figure, they explain and fulfill much of what Jesus predicted concerning himself and the end of all things.
DA Carson, professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, in a sermon on our text today talks about how…
One of the first essays we require… first-year students to write is under the caption, “Study [Revelation] chapters 21–22 using whatever aids you can and isolate every single theme in these two chapters that refers back to anything else in the Bible.” They never get them all, but they are inevitably absolutely amazed by how many biblical themes running through all of Scripture funnel down into these two explosive chapters. You really can’t understand these chapters very well unless you’ve read the whole Bible quite a lot of times.
If the Bible’s themes and truths and prophecies were roads, those roads would converge in the final chapters of Revelation. Having said that, let me also say that I could never do it justice, but I will try, at least in the big picture sense.
So after a long journey through the Bible studying what God is up to with us and the world we are at the place where God’s End Game ends and something new begins. Let’s get started.
John is given the final installment of visions…
Revelation 21:1–8 (ESV) — 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 was no more.
Hasn’t it been enlightening and encouraging how all of Scripture prepared us for this? From OT to NT, from the prophecies of Isaiah to the details of Jesus’ resurrection to the writings of Paul and Peter, the Bible has never for a moment given us any idea that the final heaven would be unfamiliar, unimaginable, ethereal, or non-physical. What could be more clear than “a new heaven and a new earth” with heaven here not referring to the place where God lives but the the sky, the stars, the planets, the universe? Just as we receive our redeemed, resurrected, glorified bodies at the return of Christ so all creation is redeemed and made new, ready for us to live in forever.
That little phrase “and the sea was no more” has brought a good many folks a great deal of anxiety, none more so than my wife, Angie, who scolded me for saying beachgoers are out of luck in the new heaven and earth.
The absence of the sea probably has something to do with it’s association with evil. From the sea rises the beast in Revelation 13 and over the sea come ships to trade with and make wealthy the wicked city of Babylon. It may be literal and it may be symbolic.
If you’re sharp, though, you’ll notice later on pearls big enough to make doors for gates in Rev 21:21. They have to come from somewhere aquatic. Saying the “sea was no more” does not mean there won’t be large bodies of water. Large bodies of water have beaches.
Feel better? Let’s keep going.
John sees the new heaven and earth as a whole, and then he sees something specific and striking…
2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
The old Jerusalem was famous in its own right, apart from the fact that it was known as the holy city, the city of David, the place that housed the temple where the living God of Israel dwelled.
Pliny the Elder, an ancient Roman writer, philosopher, and the one who authored the phrase “Home is where the heart is,” described Jerusalem as “by far the most renowned city of the ancient East.” Herod’s Temple, which stood in the heart of the city in Jesus’ time, was the size of 26 football fields and considered one of the wonders of the ancient world.
Even today, Jerusalem is sacred to the three great religions of the world: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
But that city in all its glory and importance is retired when the former things pass away. A new, more glorious city comes down from heaven (the dwelling place of God, dimension) to literally, physically settle on the new earth, not hover above as some have suggested.
Theologian Anthony Hoekema writes, “The ‘new Jerusalem’ . . . does not remain in a ‘heaven’ far off in space, but it comes down to the renewed earth; there the redeemed will spend eternity in resurrection bodies. So heaven and earth, now separated, will then be merged: the new earth will also be heaven, since God will dwell there with his people. Glorified believers, in other words, will continue to be in heaven while they are inhabiting the new earth.”
There is even more here than what we probably observe at first. We can grasp what the new heaven and earth will be like because it’s a redeemed version of the old. The old heaven had stars and planets, so will the new. The old earth had sky and land and rivers and trees, so will the new.
The same applies to New Jerusalem. The old holy city had streets, buildings, houses, and markets. It had culture, music, and arts. It had theaters and places to gather like parks. So will the new.
If there is a city in the new heaven and earth like New Jerusalem, I think we can safely assume there will be other cities as well. We won’t be living out in open fields most likely. You can digest that on your own.
Note what makes New Jerusalem special, what it signifies…
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
God dwelled with man in Eden. Heaven and earth were merged together back then as well. But the rebellion of some angelic beings and the two first humans messed that up.
Eventually he chose a people to call his own out of all the nations and dwelled with them in the tent of meeting which eventually became the temple in Jerusalem, but Israel’s rebellion messed that up. So much so that God withdrew his glory from the temple, which was kind of like moving out.
But God dwelled with man again in the person of Jesus, in the incarnation…
John 1:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
“Dwelt among us” literally means pitched a tent. The same Greek word found in noun form here in John 1:14 is used of God dwelling with man in Rev 21:3. Things have come full circle! God’s dwelling place in heaven has now come down to earth and he lives among his people.
Randy Alcorn comments on what this means…
That God would come down to the New Earth to live with us fits perfectly with his original plan. God could have taken Adam and Eve up to Heaven to visit with him in his world. Instead, he came down to walk with them in their world (Genesis 3:8). Jesus says of anyone who would be his disciple, “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). This is a picture of God’s ultimate plan—not to take us up to live in a realm made for him, but to come down and live with us in the realm he made for us. Most views of Heaven are anti-incarnational. They fail to grasp that Heaven will be God dwelling with us—resurrected people—on the resurrected Earth.
The Incarnation is about God inhabiting space and time as a human being—the new heavens and New Earth are about God making space and time his eternal home. As Jesus is God incarnate, so the New Earth will be Heaven incarnate. Think of what Revelation 21:3 tells us—God will relocate his people and come down from Heaven to the New Earth to live with them: “God himself will be with them.” Rather than our going up to live in God’s home forever, God will come down to live in our home forever. Simply put, though the present Heaven is “up there,” the future, eternal Heaven will be “down here.” If we fail to see that distinction, we fail to understand God’s plan and are unable to envision what our eternal lives will look like.
Because God has merged heaven and earth once again (this time for good), because he has fused his reality with ours, life will be what we’ve always longed for it to be and more.
4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
I never get tired of reading that.
Yesterday afternoon I watched a movie I’ve never heard of before called The Invention of Lying. It came out in 2009. It wasn’t a great movie, but it was interesting. It’s about a world where lying does not exist and there’s no such thing as fiction. Everyone tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It’s also a world where God does not exist. This life is all there is.
Mark Bellison, the main character, finds himself in a really bad spot. He loses his job, the $800 rent he owes is due, and he doesn’t have enough money to keep from being evicted. So he goes to the bank to withdraw what little he has. The teller asks him how much he’d like to withdraw even though the systems are down (this is normal because no one lies, remember?).
He knows he only has $300 in his account, but in that moment something snaps in his brain allowing him to tell the first lie ever. “$800,” he says. The systems come back up. The teller sees he only has $300 but gives him $800 because the computer must be wrong (no one lies, remember?). You get how this works. Because he’s the only person capable of lying everyone instantly believes what he says. He uses that for great gain.
One day he rushes to hospital where his mom is dying. She’s terrified of death, of entering an “eternity of nothingness.” She’s crying and all emotional.
Mark can’t stand to see her like that, so he decides to use his special ability to ease her fear. He tells her she’s wrong. She’s going to her favorite place in the whole world. Everyone she’s ever loved will be there. She’ll be young again. He tells her she’ll run and jump and dance. There’s no pain. Just love and happiness. Everyone gets a mansion. And it lasts for eternity. She dies happy.
The nurses and doctor were listening, begging to know more. Word gets out Mark knows what happens when people die and it snowballs from there (no one lies, remember?). He ends up telling them there’s a man in the sky that talks to him and such. Lying leads to the invention of religion. People are overjoyed and enthralled.
Like I said, it wasn’t a great movie but it made a big statement nonetheless. It was an unabashed jab at religion, at faith, the belief in a loving creator God. Sure enough, the actor who played Mark Bellison is an atheist.
Isn’t it interesting, though, that the afterlife the main character made up was a world free from pain? A world of love and happiness? A world that goes on forever? A place just like the new heaven and earth described by John? Everyone of all time wants that.
The longings that we have for things that seem unattainable was a major theme in CS Lewis’ writings, and a major part of his leaving atheism for Christianity. He famously wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
The world we long for, the world even atheists would make up if they could, the world we were made for is the world described by John here. The new heaven and earth. And I believe with all my heart it’s real,
Conclusion: NT Wright, in his book Following Jesus, writes:
And in this new-heaven-and-new-earth there are several things that will have no more place. There will be no barbed wire in the kingdom of God. There will be no bombs or bullets in the kingdom of God. There will be no concentration camps or refugee camps in the kingdom of God. And Revelation has its own list of what won’t be there. There will be no Temple; who needs one, when you have the living personal presence of God? There will be no sea; in Revelation, the sea is where evil comes from. There will be no sin, nothing that corrupts and defaces the human reflection of the living God. There will be no death; no mourning; no pain. The tyrant’s weapons will all have gone. And so God will wipe away all tears from all eyes.
GOD IS AWARE OF OUR SUFFERING AND CARES SO MUCH, WIPING OUR TEARS IN THE NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH IS A TOP PRIORITY.
Yes, Mary; your tears will be dried. Yes, Peter, yours will be wiped away. Yes, John; your tears are no longer needed, now that the scroll is fully open, the saving plan fully revealed. Jesus’ own tears, before Lazarus’ tomb and in Gethsemane, are swallowed up in joy. The tears of the Belfast widow will be wiped away. The tears of the Rwandan orphan will be dried. The weeping of the abandoned lover, the bitter tears of the man who’s lost his job, the tears of the black child snubbed in the white school, the tears we cry in secret and the tears we cry in our hearts, all will be wiped away.
Experiencing that for all eternity will undo even the most unjust suffering we’ve experienced here.
Even atheists want a world free from suffering. Somehow we instinctively know
 Carson, D. A. (2016). The Unqualified Joy of the God-Centered New Heaven and New Earth. In D. A. Carson Sermon Library (Re 21:1–22:5). Bellingham, WA: Faithlife.
 Freedman, D. N., Herion, G. A., Graf, D. F., Pleins, J. D., & Beck, A. B. (Eds.). (1992). In The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday.
 49 Anthony A. Hoekema, “Heaven: Not Just an Eternal Day Off,” Christianity Today (June 6, 2003), http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/122/54.0.html.
 Wright, N. T. (1994). Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (pp. 49–50). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
Content Copyright Belongs to Pleasant View First Baptist Church