God's End Game - Part 53

Series: God's End Game

March 15, 2020
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

God’s End Game - Part 53

We are almost finished with a series we’ve been in since September 2018, yes, 2018! It’s called God’s End Game and it’s a study of what God’s up to with us and the world, how he’s going to set all things back to rights, back to the way they were in the beginning.

We started in Genesis and we’re finishing in the final chapters of Revelation. To the disappointment of some, when it comes to studying the first few chapters in Genesis and the last few in Revelation, we’ve not focused on what most do: How old is the earth? Were the days of creation 24 hours or not? Did Adam and Eve encounter dinosaurs? Where did Cain get his wife? Who is the antichrist? What is the mark of the beast? Who are the 144,000? When is the tribulation and will I be a part of it?

There is value in studying those things for sure because they are in Scripture, but we’ve stuck to backing away, trying to get the bigger picture. We miss something when we allow ourselves to get bogged down in the details, especially details that we won’t know about for sure until Jesus comes back. 

If you remember, I compared what we’re doing with looking at a painting. If we only observed paintings with a loupe, examining every pixel, we’d have a lot of information about the painter (style, pigments used, and such) which would be good, but we’d never see what the painter intended — a work of beauty that had meaning or even a message. To really enjoy the painting, we have to back away.This is true of God’s Word as well.

One scholar explains…

“There is something of value in seeing the big picture, for it frequently enables us to appreciate the details more clearly. The scholarly tendency to ‘atomize’ biblical texts is often detrimental to understanding them. By stripping passages out of their literary contexts meanings are imposed upon them that were never intended by their authors."[1]

I am confident that God gave us Genesis and Revelation and everything in between not for us to “atomize," but to internalize as we see his grand and sweeping works woven into all of history from beginning to end, especially in the visions of John that reveal what happens on the Last Day when Jesus returns.

When Jesus returns all believers get their physical resurrection bodies. Jesus defeats all evil, finishing out the victory he won at the cross and the empty tomb. All creation gets renewed into what is described as the new heaven and earth. And the centerpiece of the new earth is New Jerusalem, also called the holy city (which alone reveals something about forever heaven we haven’t considered).

These closing verses are dedicated to New Jerusalem  which is revealed to John in four phases, three of which we’ve already covered.[2]

First, John is shown the city from a distance in…

Revelation 21:9–14 (ESV) — 9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Second, an angel measures the city, revealing its massive dimensions and stunning architecture…

Revelation 21:15–21 (ESV) — 15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

Third, the focus shifts to the cosmic celebrities who inhabit the city, God and the Lamb, as well as the nations and kings and those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life…

Revelation 21:22–27 (ESV) — 22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 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.

Fourth and finally, John zooms in to the heart of the city…

Revelation 22:1–5 (ESV) — 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

We don’t have time to go there today, but this part of John’s vision closely aligns with Ezekiel’s vision of the holy city and it’s temple (Ezek. 43-47) and that is connected to where this series began, Genesis and the Garden of Eden. I’ll let one commentator explain what this signifies…

John, in one of the most moving reworkings of biblical imagery in his entire book, sees the river of the water of life flowing, sparkling on its way through the city streets and out into the countryside beyond. And though it is clear enough in Ezekiel that this is a rebirth of Genesis 2, in John it is even clearer, and more sharply focused. The tree which grows in profusion on either bank of the river is ‘the tree of life’, the tree which was forbidden to Adam and Eve as they were expelled from the garden (it would have been utterly disastrous for them to be made immortal in their sinful state). And the ‘tree of life’ is not merely there to provide healing for this person, or that, for this Adam or this Eve. The vision of John has always concerned the larger realities, the huge and often hard-to-see social, cultural and political pains and puzzles, the ignorant armies clashing by night and the would-be ‘world leaders’ who turn out to be the blind leading the blind. Now the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations… God establishes the city of his presence in order that the nations may not only come to do homage but may be healed. The city is to be priestly, gathering up the praises of the rest of creation, and royal, the source of that healing, wise order through which God’s rule is to be established.[3]

Next Sunday’s message, As It Was, So It Will Be, is all about the unmistakable connection between the Garden of Eden and New Jerusalem.

3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

I’ll talk more about the accursed part next time too, but the worship part here may be where we get the idea that forever heaven is one big, eternal church service. I am happy to tell you that is not so. How do we worship him now? Just by gathering on Sunday or having a quiet time? No, we worship God by living our daily lives focused on him (working, resting, vacationing, whatever) in addition to that. There we’ll be able to worship God with our daily lives unhindered.

4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

In the book of Exodus, Moses asked to behold God’s face, to see him in all his glory. God said no because no man could see him as he is and live. So God let Moses catch a glimpse of his back! But in the new heaven and earth, when we enter the holy city, we are able to stand before God face to face. And when he looks at us he will see his name written on our foreheads. You write your name on things that belong to you, on things that are of worth to you.

And finally for today…

5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

It may mean there is no longer night time, but if the Tree of Life yields fruit each month and months make years, and if the months in the new heaven and earth are calculated the same way as the old, you need a sun and moon. I tend to think it implies there won’t be night in the holy city because the light of God’s presence will shine there 24/7.

Back to that commentator, who will wrap this up for us today…

It thus appears that the new Jerusalem, in John’s vision, is not the whole of the new creation. It is the centrepiece and glory of it, the fountain from which there flows freely all that the world could need. It is the holy of holies, but actually the whole earth is to be full of God’s glory, is to be the ultimate temple. This is what is meant when John describes the servants of God and the lamb not only worshipping (verse 3), not only seeing his face (verse 4), but also reigning ‘for ever and ever’ (verse 5). From the start of the book we were told that the lamb’s followers were to be a royal priesthood, and now we see what this means. It is from the city, the city which is the bride, the bride which is the lamb’s followers, that healing, restorative stewardship is to flow. This is how the creator God will show, once and for all, that his creation was good, and that he himself is full of mercy.[4]

Conclusion: Those who would have received this letter originally, the Christians in the seven churches and beyond as it circulated among the local congregations of the early church, would have taken great comfort in the true and living hope given here. They would have reveled not in the details but the bigger picture of a conquering Christ who sets up his kingdom forever. A God who renews all creation and actually lives among the people in New Jerusalem. A world where there is no pain or suffering or evil.

You see, there was much to fear in their day. Earthquakes and erupting volcanoes decimated cities and even entire cultures. Plagues killed millions indiscriminately. Christians were especially vulnerable in that many lost their jobs when they followed Christ. Even worse they were mercilessly persecuted by the Roman Empire for not worshipping the Emperor and their pantheon of gods. They lived with uncertainty, but they endured — thrived even —  because, as the writer of Hebrews puts it…

Hebrews 13:14 (ESV) — 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

I don’t think it’s an accident that we find ourselves here in God’s Word this morning. We too live in uncertainty. We Christians will suffer along with everyone else (don’t buy into to the false gospel); we probably will even suffer more. Why would we think we’d be exempt?

What gives us unfailing hope as Christ-followers is we know there is a city to come, a city that crowns God’s new world. And that world, that reality, is full of God’s presence and any place like that can have no bad things, it cannot contain anything for anyone to worry about ever.

What we’ve been studying is so relevant, so applicable to what’s happening right now. God’s Word is like that. No matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, we will get through it because one day we will walk the streets of that city. We will drink from the river of life. We will eat from the Tree of Life. We will see God and the Lamb face-to-face. That gives us unfailing hope right now.


All this is a great struggle, so please pray for the staff and leaders. We want to maintain the safety of our people and the integrity of our ministries during this crisis. Someone framed it well when they said in the end it may not be clear if we overreacted to the pandemic or not, but it will be tragically clear if we under-reacted.

Tomorrow the staff and leadership meet to develop our plan which may involve moving our services to online only temporarily or limiting our on campus services in some way.

Either way, we will start streaming Sunday worship next Sunday, provided we don’t run into technical issues. It won’t be the absolute best quality, but it will work until we can invest in better equipment.

For now, here are four important things to know and do.

(1). It’s critical that you connect with us via email, Facebook, and/or the web site in the coming weeks. Those will be the methods we use to communicate what we’re doing with services and such.

Anything you need to know during this time will be communicated through those three methods.

If you don’t have access to any of those, contact someone who does right now and rely on them to forward information. 

A. Access the web site from any browser on any computer or mobile device with data.

B. Access our Facebook page using the same. That’s where we’ll either livestream services or post afterwards.

C. Sign up for email updates by going to our web site and choosing the contact tab. 

(2). It’s vital to continue giving to the ministries @ PVFBC. Online giving is a great option for that. You may give online @ PVFBC.com/give or simply text the word Give with the amount (e.g. Give 100) to (615) 271-7778. You may also mail checks to

Pleasant View FBC

PO Box 208

Pleasant View, TN 37146

Whether we meet on campus or not, your staff will be working hard to make sure we live out our purpose of leading people on the journey to authentic faith. We’ll also be looking for ways to minister the gospel during this difficult time.

Speaking of giving, starting today we will not pass offering plate around. Our ushers will be at the back to receive your gifts when we dismiss . Please be prepared to drop that in as you pass by. Thank you for generosity.

(3). It goes without saying, but pray and have faith. Above all do that.

(4). Know our God is in control.

Matthew 6:25–33 (ESV) — 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 

We want to have a brief time of prayer as encouraged by our denomination leaders. Rob will play as we consider the four things included in your Sunday paper…


In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic, we are asking all Southern Baptists and our 47,500+ churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to commit to a dedicated time of prayer this Sunday, March 15, 2020, to seek the Lord in unity about these matters:

1. Ask God, in His mercy, to stop this pandemic and save lives—not only in our communities but around the world, particularly in places that are unequipped medically to deal with the virus. (Isaiah 59:1-2)

2. Pray for President Donald Trump and other government leaders—international, federal, state, and local—to have the wisdom to direct us in the best courses of action for prevention and care. (Romans 13:1–4)

3. Scripture says—teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Pray that the Lord will give us wisdom in this moment of fear as the foundations of what we know are shaken, that others would realize how fragile life is and how real eternity is, and they would see their need to turn to God. (Psalm 90:12)

4. Ask God to protect our missionaries and their families around the globe, using this global crisis to advance His Good News to the whole world. (Mark 16:15)

[1] Alexander, T. D. (2008). From Eden to the New Jerusalem: Exploring God’s Plan for Life on Earth (p. 11). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity.

[2] Adapted from Koester, C. R. (2014). Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. (J. J. Collins, Ed.) (Vol. 38A, pp. 825–826). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

[3] Wright, T. (2011). Revelation for Everyone (pp. 199–201). London; Louisville, KY: SPCK; Westminster John Knox.

[4] Ibid.

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