Some Glorious Gifts of Heaven Cataloged (Revelation Sermon 44 of 49)
April 22, 2018 | Andy Davis
What a joy I have today to preach on aspects of our heavenly inheritance. In Ephesians 1, the Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians, “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…” [Ephesians 1:18] Putting it simply, he prayed that they would know how rich they will be in Heaven. There could be no better passage of Scripture than Revelation 22:1-5 to give us a catalog of some of the aspects of our heavenly inheritance.
Recently a friend encouraged me to listen to an audio recording of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. One of my favorite parts is the description of the treasure. It is marvelous. Edmond Dantès had escaped from the prison on Chateau D’If and had followed a treasure map to a hidden grotto where this vast treasure had been hidden in the 1490s. It is divided into three categories.
“Three compartments divided the coffer. In the first, blazed piles of golden coin; in the second, were ranged bars of unpolished gold, which possessed nothing attractive save their value; in the third, Edmond grasped handfuls of diamonds, pearls, and rubies, which, as they fell on one another, sounded like hail against glass. After having touched, felt, examined these treasures, Edmond rushed through the caverns like a man seized with frenzy; he leaped on a rock, from whence he could behold the sea. He was alone -- alone with these countless, these unheard-of treasures! was he awake, or was it but a dream? He raced around screaming like a madman at his lavish fortune… Then he fell on his knees, and, clasping his hands convulsively, uttered a prayer intelligible to God alone. He soon became calmer and more happy, for only now did he begin to realize his felicity. He then set himself to work to count his fortune. There were a thousand ingots of gold, each weighing from two to three pounds; then he piled up twenty-five thousand crowns, each worth about eighty francs...; and he saw that the complement was not half empty. And he measured ten double handfuls of pearls, diamonds, and other gems, many of which, mounted by the most famous workmen, were valuable beyond calculation.”
Edmond Dantes had to take in his treasure a little at a time. It was way too much for him to understand how wealthy he had become. He had to lift things up one at a time to take them in. That is the sense I have in our passage today. Quick, brief statements, one after another, list treasures of indescribable value. For example, “they will see his face…” A quick phrase but infinite in worth and value. We will lift up each of these treasures one at a time and ponder them. I pray that the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened to realize just how rich we will be in Heaven in our inheritance with the saints. If you are not yet a Christian, my desire is that you would be jealous to be that rich and you would cross over from death to life this very morning as I proclaim the simple truth of the Gospel. All you must do is believe the Gospel and you, too, will be that wealthy.
This section in Revelation continues the Apostle John’s description of the New Jerusalem, which he began in Revelation 21:9-11: “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”
John then describes the glorious architecture of the brilliant city, the New Jerusalem: its great high wall with twelve gates, each named for one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and each with an angel standing at the gates, not to guard it from threats but to welcome all who come; its twelve-fold foundations, each bearing the name of one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb; the gates, each made of a spectacular single pearl; the streets, made of something unknown to us, like transparent gold; the foundations of the city wall decorated with twelve different colored gems, giving off every color of the spectrum with marvelous, radiant beauty.
The New Jerusalem is incalculably massive in size, effectively the distance from Orlando to Abilene Texas, and up to the border of Canada, and as tall as it is long and broad, an incomprehensible size for a city. It is continually radiant with the glory of God, possessing a glowing translucent quality. The city gates stand open continually, and the wealth of the nations come stream in to beautify the city and make it even more glorious. John mentions the kings of the nations will come into it and bring their glory into it... so this city will be the focus of the New Heavens and New Earth.
In some mysterious sense the New Jerusalem represents us, the people of God, the Bride of Christ. But it cannot be only a symbolic representation of the multifaceted diverse beauty of the Church of Jesus Christ, because we will need a place to live forever. We will have actual physical resurrection bodies like Christ’s resurrection body. Christ, “by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” [Philippians 3:21]
After his resurrection, when he appeared in the upper room, Jesus was trying to prove to his Apostles that they were not seeing a ghost. He said “‘Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.” [Luke 24:39-40] In the same way, we will have bodies. We must have a place to walk, a place to gather, a place to dwell, a place to eat and drink, and that place will be the New Jerusalem.
We saw that it is a perfectly pure place, free from all threats, enemies, wickedness. Revelation 21:27 says, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
That gives us the context for Revelation 22. The first five verses complete the line by line description of the New Jerusalem, and I can do nothing better, like Edmond Dantès, than to take up one treasure after another to consider the value of each one. We will look at them briefly this morning, but in Christ we will live them eternally. My desire is that our hearts will be filled with joy, peace, happiness and hope based on the Word of God and the ministry of the Spirit.
The River of the Water of Life
The Angel Showed Me
Revelation 22:1-2 says, “Then the angel showed me the River of the Water of Life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.” John is seeing all this in a supernatural vision of the Spirit led by an angelic guide, introduced in Revelation 21:9. The Holy Spirit is giving him a vision that he would have no other way of seeing. The New Jerusalem did not exist when John wrote this and still does not; it is not finished from our perspective, so it is only by vision and by Scripture that we can have an idea of what it is like. John could not have concocted this complex image in his mind. He was not a literary genius coming up with images from his own fervent imagination. The angel had a mission from God to show him a vision of the future; he saw it and wrote it down.
John sees the river of the Water of Life. It is a powerful image, a sparkling, bubbling, rushing river of water, endlessly flowing, ready to refresh the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem forever. It is flowing clear as crystal, brilliant, radiant, shining with the glory of God like everything else in the city. We once took a trip from Miami, Florida, where my dad was raised, down to the Florida Keys. The road to the Keys is amazing, a flat highway just above the surface of the water. We pulled off for a picnic in a cove along the way. I had never seen water so clear in all my life. I do not know how deep it was, but it was like glass — we could see straight through it — perfectly clear, beautiful water. The river of life is like this — no impurities, no mud, no silt.
The river flows down the middle of the great street of the city. That street is depicted as made of transparent gold (Rev. 21:21) The whole plan of the city centers around this street and this river, so they seem to go together. The image is similar to the one seen by Ezekiel the prophet in his vision of a mysterious glorified temple. He describes a river flowing from the mystical spiritual temple.
Ezekiel 47:1-5 “The man [an angel] brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east)... As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in — a river that no one could cross.” It gets deeper and wider as it flows further and further away, suggesting an infinite supply of water.
In Ezekiel’s image, the river produces vast and diverse life and fruitfulness: Ezekiel 47:6-9 “Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, ‘This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.’” Hallelujah!
Ezekiel 47:12 says, “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” There is little doubt that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the prophet Ezekiel to write those words was inspiring the Apostle John to write these words in Revelation. He is giving us a description of the same future heavenly blessedness. We will have a New Jerusalem.
The idea of the river of the Water of Life connects with many images in Psalms, of thirsty souls coming to God: Psalm 42:1 says,“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” Psalm 46:4 “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” There is a river where God will dwell, and it makes everyone glad.
It also is reminiscent of the original Garden of Eden. From the midst of that garden, Genesis 2:10 says, “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.” That gives me the sense that Adam and Eve were not meant to stay in that garden but they were meant to move out and fill the earth and subdue it and multiply and explore it. Genesis 2 also talks about aromatic resin and onyx and gold out in the earth — a world waiting to be explored. So also, the river of the Water of Life leads out into the city, the New Jerusalem, and out into the New Earth, inviting its inhabitants to follow it out to explore and discover all that God has done.
It also reminds me of the statement Jesus made to the Samaritan woman in John 4. She was trying to understand him and his message. He said “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” [She did not know who he was and was not all that impressed with what she saw.] “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” [“Are you greater than Jacob?” Yes, infinitely greater than Jacob! And I will tell you how:] “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
This is the consummation of all these images, a source of endless spiritual refreshment through our relationship with God and Christ. It also teaches that the source of our eternal life will forever be God and Christ — there is no independent eternal life in heaven. We will depend on the river of the Water of Life flowing from the throne forever. We will not cut the tie with God and His throne. Our eternal life is dependent on Him, and He is eternally willing for us to continue living. It is a continual choice on His part that we should continue to live in Him. We are made in His image; thus, we are forever dependent on Him.
The source of the water is the throne of God. He is a mighty king, seated on His throne, and life flows from His kingly rule. The water is created right from the sovereign power of the King of the Universe. In the same way that He created the universe — ex nihilo, Latin for “out of nothing,” by the word of His power — He continually and infinitely creates this water. It represents God as the source of all life, happiness, joy, and refreshment forever.
It also shows the nature of His kingship. Human rulers use their authority to dominate and oppress others, to fleece them and strip them and shred them of life and possessions and dignity. Not God. He uses his dominion to give life and blessing to all his subjects. Those around the throne are not running from it, as rebels, but running to the throne to receive refreshment and to delight in God and His good gifts.
This reminds me of a different river that also flowed from the throne of God. In Daniel 7, Daniel the prophet had a vision of four beasts coming up out of the turbulent waters, representing mighty, godless, wicked, satanic empires, one after another. In the middle of that chapter, we see the throne of the Ancient of Days, Almighty God, ruling to judge and bring wrath on these demonic, wicked empires.
Daniel 7:9-10 “Almighty God took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him.” From the same throne comes both a river of fire and the river of the Water of Life. That is Hell and Heaven, both coming from the sovereign power of Almighty God. Both eternal life and eternal death flow from the throne of God, and no one can overturn his will.
The Tree of Life
Revelation 22:2-3 “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
Garden of Eden, but Better
To some degree, in our hearts and minds, it must seem as though this is a return to the Garden of Eden, except this is perfected, infinitely better now. We are not on probation; we are not being tested. Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and we see the tragic river of wickedness that flowed from that sinful decision on Adam’s part, a flood of miseries of sin, sickness, sorrow, tears and death. After they sinned, Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden. God the Judge placed a sentinel cherubim with a flaming sword flashing back and forth, “…lest they reach out their hands and take and eat from the Tree of Life and live forever.”
But Jesus Christ came and paid the death penalty and removed that sword, that angel. Now we have the right to enter through the gates of the city and eat from the Tree of Life forever. Jesus won us that right; he paid for it with his blood.
Position of the Tree: On Each Side of the River of Life
The position of the tree is challenging to understand. One tree on both sides of a mighty river? That is a big tree! It is an amazing picture. Ezekiel 47 describes a grove of trees on each side, but John’s image is “the” Tree of Life. The Tree of Life and the river of the Water of Life show different aspects of the same thing. They are two different ways of representing that God intends for us to drink and eat and live forever. It is like the godly man in Psalm 1:3 “… like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers…” There is continued fruitfulness. The tree bears fruit every month.
I have seen a commentary which uses Ezekiel’s image, a grove of trees; another says they all stem from the same root system which shows its gnarly roots in places above ground. Perhaps it is a massively huge single tree that spans the stream, narrow as it flows from the throne, wider as it flows further on. Others make no effort to make sense of it physically, because they do not try to do that with Revelation; for them it is simply a symbolic spiritual image. I think it is a physical tree and though I cannot imagine it, I cannot wait to see it. I do know that the Tree of Life derives its life and fruit from the water flowing from the throne of God.
The Leaves of the Tree are for the Healing of the Nations
Here is another mystery: “…the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” We have already learned in Revelation 21:4 that “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…” Death is finished. Why would there be need for healing for the nations? It is like saying the hospitals in the New Jerusalem will be top notch, or the funeral homes will be the best ever seen. That is not the gist of what is being described. Rather, as our lives depend on God, so our vitality, our healthfulness, our power in our resurrection bodies are also dependent on Him. We will derive endless strength and potency from eating from this tree.
This is also perhaps why pain is not needed. I do not imagine that we will have any kind of injuries in the New Jerusalem, but if it were possible for one to be clumsy — not likely —, there will be instantaneous healing of the resurrection body from eating of the tree. There is no need for pain, no need for the resurrection brain to know about the injury at all. Just as when Peter cut off Malchus’ ear with his sword and Jesus restored his ear instantly, there will be a continual healthfulness from eating the tree.
No More Curse
Another benefit of the New Jerusalem is that there will “No longer … be any curse.” [Revelation 22:3] The curse came on Adam and his progeny because he ate the forbidden fruit. Death, the main curse, will be gone forever! God also cursed the ground because of him, saying it would produce thorns and thistles; and his labor was cursed — he would work for his food by the sweat of his brow. In the New Jerusalem, the earth will not be cursed, and we will not be cursed with death. We will work but it will not be in cursed labor — we will have satisfying projects using our amazing resurrection brains and bodies to do amazing things.
The Jews were promised blessings as they entered the Promised Land. Deuteronomy 28:3 says, “You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.” What a sweet meditation that is in light of the New Jerusalem and the New Earth. Everything we do in the city and in the country will be blessed. “You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out… The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to.” [Deuteronomy 28:6, 8] How marvelous is that!
The Throne of God and of the Lamb
The Throne of God is the place of the greatest power in the universe
Revelation 22:3 speaks of the throne of God and of the Lamb: “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city.” We saw this in verse 1 as well. The throne of God is the place where he rules, where He reigns over the universe, which at that time will be the New Heaven and New Earth.
In the Present Universe, God’s Throne is in Heaven... the Highest Heaven
In the present universe, the throne of God is situated in the words of Scripture as infinitely high and lifted up above us. Isaiah tells us that the Almighty says, “I live in a high and holy place.”[Isaiah 57:15] He says in Isaiah 66:1, “This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?” Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” We have a sense of God’s throne being high and lifted up, and to some degree inaccessible to us.
God’s Throne in the Middle of the City
But in the New Jerusalem, when she descends out of heaven from God prepared as a bride, the throne of God will be right there in the midst of the people, in the midst of the city, no gap, no separation. God is still infinitely holy — He is Creator, we are creature — but the throne will be accessible. This is what God has always wanted, to be in the midst of and dwell with His people. He would be their God and they would be His people. That will be fulfilled. Our access to the throne will be perfect. We will be able to walk right up to the throne of grace and mercy, because Christ has opened for us eternally a new and living way into the presence of the king.
Notice Also the Deity of Christ
This also speaks to the deity of Christ. There is one throne, which is called the throne of God and of the Lamb. This is the complex imagery of the deity of Christ, sharing the throne with God the Father. Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” and we have one throne as God. In Revelation 5:5-6, where John was weeping because no one was found who could take the scroll. “Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Rood of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne.” It is the same image — Jesus, the lamb slain for the sins of the world is standing in the center of the Father’s throne. There is no doubt what that means: Jesus is Almighty God.
The Rich Blessings of the Servants of God
The Blessings of Perfected Slavery
Next, we have the catalog of a series of rich blessings that will come to us as servants of God. Verse 3 says, “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” The throne of God is immediately accessible, but our primary role, according to this Verse, there are other roles, is to serve. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates it as “slaves”, which is more accurate. His slaves will be ready to do His bidding. The word “serve” indicates a priestly religious verb. His slaves will serve Him in priestly roles. In other places, we are called sons and daughters, and we will share inheritance with Christ. But the image here is one of slavery. God is a mighty king, worthy of our full obedience. In Adam, we joined Satan in rebellion fighting against the King of the Universe. We have been redeemed from all that, and we will be delighted to take the king’s yoke upon us. We will not be fighting the yoke anymore; we will be glad to have a mighty king to rule over us, commanding us.
The Greek word used here is the common word for slaves, sometimes translated bondslaves. In Ephesians and Colossians, Paul gives commands related to the master-slave hierarchy. Christian masters are commanded to treat their slaves with respect, because they are under a master too. Some day they will be required to give an account to their own master for how they treated their slaves, who were fellow human beings.
Any thoughtful Christian in the 21st century reading those commands will have a question pressing on their minds: Why did Paul not command Christian masters to emancipate their slaves, to set them free? I have covered that topic previously when I preached on those passages in Ephesians and Colossians, if you would like to look up those sermons. In the past couple of centuries, Christian forces were unleashed that fought to make chattel slavery illegal all over the world. In those sermons in Ephesians and Colossians, I referred to Revelation 22:3. One possible answer is that slavery is eternal. In some respects, we will be considered the slaves of God. Peter and Paul and James, in their Epistles, did not mind that at all. They called themselves bondslaves of Christ; they were honored to have that title. But I continued to meditate on the question — why would we do this?
Keep in mind that Jesus took that same thing on himself. In Philippians 2, Jesus “who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be [grasped]; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of [what?] a servant [SLAVE]. And being found in appearance as a man [or “made in human likeness”; meditate on that phrase — the very nature of a slave implies being human, so in this passage, human equals slave] he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Jesus is forever seen to be a doulos, a servant.
He is also forever seen as the Son of God, and we have the same dual aspect. We are sons and daughters of the living God by adoption, and we are also slaves of the eternal God. Jesus is every bit as much slave as he is God, as seen in Philippians 2. He was not faking it, only acting like a servant while on earth. This is who he really is. He served us by washing our dirty, nasty feet. He served us by taking our dirty nasty sins on his holy self and dying in our place on the cross under the wrath of God. He served us, and he will continue to serve us in Heaven. Luke 12:37 says, “I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.” Picture feasting in the New Jerusalem. Your cup is running low, and somebody taps you on the shoulder and wants to refill your cup. It is Jesus, the King of Glory, wanting to fill your cup. There is nothing demeaning about this kind of service — this is a service in Heaven!
What is the difference between being a slave and being an employee? I see two key differences: salary and freedom. Slaves do not get paid for their labor, and they are not free to walk away. What about Heaven? I tell you, you will not want to be paid for your service. You are infinitely rich as a member of the Royal Family — you will not need a salary.
But in the days of chattel slavery, they were not singing songs in the fields for wages, but for freedom. Freedom to what? To walk away, to escape from a wicked master and to live with autonomy. Meditate on that. You should see that this not anything you will desire in Heaven. Anyone who want to walk away from the Master are free now to do so, living their entire lives away from the Master, the King. They rebel against his kingly rule and receive their condemnation. We who follow Christ embrace the yoke and the kingly rule, and we delight in it forever. We do not desire to go anywhere else, and we will spend eternity serving him.
As I said, the word implies religious service, like the work of the priests in the temple. Back then, it was manual labor within an animal sacrificial system. The priests had to keep the fires burning, wrestle bulls onto the altar, kill them, pour out the blood, and more. It was very physical, a hard day’s work. All of that has now been fulfilled. I do not know what worship work we will do in Heaven, but we will enjoy it. We will work at worship forever, with access to the throne.
The Blessings of Seeing God’s Face
Perhaps the greatest blessing of all comes in Verse 4: “They will see His face.” How can I capture the significance of those words? If you are redeemed, a child of God, some day you will see God’s face. This is the very thing that was forbidden of Moses on the mountain. Moses was having an intense time of a love relationship with his Creator, God the Father. “Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.’ And the LORD said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ [Paul quoted this in Romans 9. We do not deserve to have God show us his glory. It is given by grace.] ‘But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’ Then the LORD said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back, [The Hebrew is akin to “hind quarters”; I think of it as His trailing glory, like the last part of a comet going by] but my face must not be seen.’” [Exodus 33:18-23]
John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God’s face at any time.” 1 Timothy 6:16 says that God “alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” In Adam, we were all condemned criminals. Frequently, a judgment by the king on a condemned criminal is not being able to see the king’s face. When Absalom was banished and then allowed to return to Israel, he was not permitted to see the face of the king, his own father, which caused him great anguish. Wicked Haman, who was condemned by King Xerxes, had his face covered as the king gave his decree — he was forbidden to see the face of the king anymore.
We are condemned sinners, and as a result of indwelling sin, we are corrupt. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” [Matthew 5:8] We are not pure in heart. There is wickedness and corruption in us, so we are not fit to see God’s face. 1 Corinthians 15:50 says, “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God…” We are not able to see God’s glorious face in our flesh and blood, but some day we will see Him face to face. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; [now, we have exegesis, sermon, preaching, imagination, which cast a poor reflection, like in a kind of a dirty mirror] then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” That vision will be absolutely transformative. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” [1 John 3:2]
The mystics of the Middle Ages called it “the Beatific Vision,” the vision of blessedness. This is absolute, perfect happiness. You could imagine yourself like a dust speck in a stream of light, floating in an ocean of happiness to see the face of God. I look on God as the source of all beauty and all love and all goodness in the universe. We will finally be able to go to the source to see Him in the face.
CS Lewis, in Till We Have Faces, said this: “It was when I was happiest that I longed most...The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”
The Blessings of His Name on our Foreheads
Verse 4 says, “…his name will be on their foreheads.” His name sums up His being, and having His name on our foreheads means we will glow with His glory. Moses’ face, after beholding the trailing hindquarters of God, was shining radiantly. God’s glory reflected on Moses’ face faded, as in the Old Covenant, but we will look into the face of God and our whole bodies will glow forever.
God will stamp his name on your forehead, saying, “You are mine. I bought you with a price; you are my adopted sons and daughters.” He will claim His absolute ownership. The forehead also gives a sense of the complete transformation of the mind to love and honor the name of God, the Ineffable Name, the unpronounceable, the mysterious name of God. You remember in Judges 13:18 “He replied, ‘Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.’” Somehow we will come closer to comprehending the name of God in Heaven. He will own us and we will be immersed in him. He will be our Father, and we will be his children.
The Blessings of Perpetual Daylight
Verse 5 says, “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.” We saw this in the last chapter; it is repeated here. Night can be a dangerous time — wild animals, predators, criminals, wicked people approaching by stealth to do harm, all depend on the cover of darkness.
With some light, night can also be beautiful. It is beautiful in autumn when the harvest moon rises over a field, big and red and orange in October. It is beautiful in spring when the stars are vivid in a cool night in the mountains with the Milky Way and all the starry host visible. It is beautiful in summer with moon shadows dancing everywhere and crickets chirping with the rest of the peaceful energetic chorus, or sailing in a cove on placid waters with the moonlight shimmering on the water. It is beautiful in winter with the trees denuded of their leaves, revealing their stark fingers under a cold, distant silvery moon.
As much beauty as nighttime can possess, it will be superseded by God’s display of light coming from His own glory. He will do light beautifully and perfectly there, and we will not miss the night. There will be no light lamplight there — human technology such as the incandescent light bulb from Thomas Edison or the AC grid from Nicola Tesla or the energy footprint will not be needed anymore. God will be pulsating the place with the light of His glory.
The Blessings of Our Eternal Reign
Finally, in verse 5, “And they will reign for ever and ever.” God will be our King — Jesus will be our King of kings and Lord of lords. We will each reign over a sub-kingdom, but I believe the redeemed will not all have equal positions of authority. Some will have more authority than others. Some of you may disagree, thinking it will be more egalitarian, with no hierarchy. But I think there will be places at Jesus’ right and left in his kingdom. Those who suffered and served the best will receive those places of honor. But however those rulerships go, all the redeemed will rule under Christ forever and ever.
Now is the Day of Salvation
If you are a non-Christian, you are on the outside of all this looking in. God has given you something called “today.” You do not know that you will have tomorrow. Yesterday is gone; you cannot do anything about what is past. You have today, right now. I have already given you the basic center piece of the Gospel: God sent Jesus to die on the cross under His wrath for sinners like you and me. All you need to do to have a place in this marvelous New Jerusalem is believe in Jesus, trust in him. Repent of your sins, turn away from sin, and believe in Christ. Say to him, Oh Lord Jesus, I want you to be my Savior. Your blood is sufficient for all of my sins. I trust in you. Come to Christ so you can join with all of the redeemed in celebrating this kind of life.
Ask for a powerful sense of the glories of Heaven
Second, ask the Holy Spirit to work in you a sense of the glories of Heaven. Take this text home and lift out the treasures yourself and look at them one at a time.
Purify your heart to get ready to see God face to face
Ask God to give you a foretaste of what it will be like to see His face. Worship Him more. Sing to Him Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Speak Psalms to Him. Thank Him for all that He has done for you. Worship him longer. Make yourself happy in His presence every morning, based on these truths, and seek to purify your life from all those things that you will be ashamed of on Judgement Day. Put sin to death by the Spirit. Get yourself ready through holiness, to enjoy as much of Heaven as you possibly can, even while you are still here on earth.
All the beauty in this world comes from God
Realize that all of the beauty, all of the things that you see that you think are beautiful here in this world, come from the throne of God. Give Him thanks for that beauty.
Share the gospel!
Finally, share the Gospel. This week, screw up your courage by the power of the Holy Spirit and say something to a lost person about Jesus. Say something to a co-worker, a neighbor, a total stranger. Talk to them about the glories of the place to which we are going, and the even greater glories of the redeeming work of God that will get sinners like us there.
Close with me in prayer. Father, thank you for the joy that we have in meditating on Heaven. Thank you for the beauty of the place where we are going. I pray, O Lord, that you would strengthen each one of us to delight in that beauty and in that glory now by faith. Some day we will see it with our own eyes. Help us, O Lord, to live in open, obvious hope. Help us, O Lord, to live out Gospel joy. Help us to be bold in sharing the words of the Gospel with those who are presently lost. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.