The New Heaven and the New Earth, Part 2 (Revelation Sermon 39 of 49)
March 11, 2018 | Andrew Davis
In 2010, Tyndale House published a book that took our nation by storm, called The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A True Story. It related the story of Alex Malarkey’s experience when he was six years old, after a terrible traffic accident in 2004. According to his own account, Alex and his father Kevin were involved in a terrible car crash on a rural highway in Pennsylvania. Alex said he saw his father fly out of the window of the car only to be caught by an angel and carried to safety. He then related his own experience after he had been life-flighted by a helicopter to a hospital. He states he was carried by an angel through the gates of Heaven, which he described as tall, to be met by Jesus, who appeared out of a hole in Heaven. After he regained consciousness, he told his family this account and his father helped him write down his near death experience. Tyndale House published it, promoting it as “a supernatural encounter that will give you new insights into heaven, angels and hearing the voice of God.”
The book sold over a million copies, which shows the intense interest that people have about Heaven. Unfortunately, despite the title, A True Story, it was not true at all. In the year 2012, Alex described his own book as one of the most deceptive books ever published. Alex wrote in a confession of sorts, “I did not die. I did not go to heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies and they continue to profit from lies. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.” The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven is one of many books in what has become known as the heavenly tourism genre — books by people who claim to have had visions of heaven and can give us information about what we will experience after we die.
The 2004 book, 90 Minutes In Heaven by Don Piper spent over five years on the New York Times Best Seller List and sold over 6 million copies. Even more impressive is Todd Burpo’s account of his three-year-old son Colton’s experience. That book, called Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, sold over 10 million copies and was made into a movie that grossed over $101 million at the box office. That story is particularly engrossing because Colton somehow acquired information about an unborn sister that was miscarried by his mother in 1998 and a great-grandfather who had died 30 years before Colton was born. This seemingly supernatural information gave Colton’s account spiritual authority to many people, which explains the runaway sales of the book and the interest in the movie.
Pastor John MacArthur in California is deeply concerned about all of these kinds of stories. He said, “It may be quite fascinating to read these intricately detailed accounts of people who claim to have come back from heaven, but that hobby is as dangerous as it is seductive. Readers not only get a twisted, unbiblical picture of heaven from these tall tales, they also imbibe a subjective, superstitious, shallow brand of spirituality. There is no reason to believe anyone who claims to have gone to heaven and returned. Studying mystical accounts of supposed journeys into the afterlife yields nothing but confusion, contradiction, false hope, bad doctrine, and a host of similar evils.” I take it John MacArthur like any book of that genre.
The amazing popularity of these books shows the intense interest we all have in knowing more about Heaven. The controversy that has followed them, however, shows the danger inherent in these accounts and, as Alex said, seeking information about Heaven from any place other than the Bible. That is why the last two chapters of the Bible that we are studying are so powerful. In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John records spiritual visions that God gave him through the power of the Holy Spirit, in which he ascended in the Spirit into the heavenly realms and saw visions of heaven and predictions of the future. Revelation 1:1-2 says, “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw — that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
A few chapters later in Revelation 4:1-2, John writes, “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice that I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.”
Both of these passages say that John was given a revelation from God of the future and of the heavenly realms. Revelation 21 and 22 contain the final visions that God gave to John on the island of Patmos (and the final visions of the Bible), visions of the heavenly world to which Christians are going. God commanded John to write down those visions for us to read. Verse 5 says, “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.’” The words committed to the apostle John are trustworthy; they are words on which we can build our lives, the hopes of our souls. They are trustworthy and true — not lies, not deceptions. John was commanded through the Holy Spirit to write them down for the generations, twenty centuries of Christians who would read these accounts.
In giving him this responsibility, God dealt differently with John than he did with the Apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul said, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know — God knows. And I know that this man — whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows — was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” Paul says that the things he saw when he was caught up to the third heaven were inexpressible — no words could express them accurately; and were not permitted to be revealed — he was not even allowed to try to put them into words. God had planned to entrust that responsibility to John decades later.
Whatever you may think about the heavenly tourism books, whether you agree or disagree with John McArthur, you may enjoy reading them. But this book of Revelation, and specifically the last two chapters, are the only God-approved Spirit-inspired description of the magnificent future world to which we Christians are going, and they are worthy of our careful study because they are trustworthy and true.
Verse 4, which I will focus on in depth next week, is magnificent, giving us a look into the world to which we are going, where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. We will swim in that concept next week to try to understand what that will mean for us.
Review of Last Week
God has commanded us to meditate on heaven, to fill our minds and our hearts with things above, things to come. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you [Christians] died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” [Colossians 3:1-4]
The greater our suffering, the sweeter will be our meditations about heaven. Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Our brothers and sisters in restricted countries are suffering for the gospel, incarcerated for their faith. We are to remember them, according to Hebrews, as if we were in prison with them. We should especially pray for the persecuted church that God would give them robust meditations on their heavenly life, their heavenly rewards, that they would rejoice and be glad to suffer for his name.
We noted that our present affluent comfortable life may make our meditations on heaven less sweet and not as urgent.
We noted the many benefits of meditating on and yearning strongly for Heaven. It proves that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also. It develops Christian character — perseverance, boldness, courage, an otherworldly aspect to our lives. It glorifies God — Psalm 73:25 says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire beside you.” It makes all of life God-centered because heaven is God-centered; the more we meditate on that place, the more God-centered we will become, and God will be our treasure and our pleasure.
Meditating on and yearning strongly for Heaven helps us to realize how insignificant our life circumstances really are, whether good or bad. Accolades and rewards and treasures of this life or suffering that we endure shrink into insignificance, enabling us to conclude that our suffering is, as Paul said [Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17], “not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” and “light and momentary” compared to eternity.
Meditating on Heaven results in holiness. Both Paul and John link meditating on Heaven to putting sin to death and purifying ourselves just as He is pure, resulting in yearning for holiness.
Meditating on Heaven drives missions and evangelism, helping us to live otherworldly lives, not caring what we have in this life. It enables some to leave behind the comforts of a particular lifestyle to go to places where they will be less comfortable or even actively persecuted because they are living for Heaven. Our hope in heaven is very attractive to people who are without hope and without God in the world. It drives the external journey and enables us to vigorously serve God right to the end because we know that our labour in the Lord is not in vain, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Then we started with Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth’, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…” Here, the Bible comes full circle from Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” It ends with this incredibly hopeful statement that completes God’s intention in making a physical universe as a manifestation of his love and glory. He did not need a physical universe, he wanted it. So He created the first heaven and the first earth, which he will remove in the end. The first heaven and the first earth will pass away, and He will bring in a new heaven and a new earth. The use of the same words shows that there will be continuity in the form of a resurrected earth — there will be a link to this present world, but it will be far greater and more glorious.
In that physical spiritual world, we will have the delight of exploring, like Lewis and Clark or the explorers who sailed to the new world. At that point, Habakkuk 2:14 says, “…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” We will study, like scientists and explorers, what God has made in the new heaven and the new earth, to celebrate and delight in it. The first heaven and the first earth will have passed away — we will remember this present world and our personal and collective history, but without any accompanying mourning or pain or sorrow.
The first heaven and earth will pass away to be replaced by a resurrected world, similar in concept to our resurrection bodies. In 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, Paul affirms the resurrection body which will require a physical resurrected world in which to live. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. We must have resurrection bodies to live in that perfect world. He described it in this way: “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” Imperishable, glorious, powerful, spiritual. That describes the resurrection body and the resurrected world. We will enjoy walking in our resurrection bodies on this resurrected earth, feeling the resurrected soil with our resurrected feet.
Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, speculates, using his imagination based in Scripture, on what that new world will be like. It will be familiar, like home, like what we have known in this world, only different, better. He cites Revelation 21:10: “… 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.” John is taken to a lofty, glorious mountain and later is shown a river flowing through the center of the city, clear as crystal.
Then, Alcorn’s imagination takes flight. It is amazing to imagine what God will do with mountains and rivers in the new earth. He uses the logic of progression — our resurrection bodies will be like our physical bodies, only better, with expanded capabilities: “Everything God tells us suggests we will look back at the present earth and conclude, creatively speaking, God was just warming up and getting started with this present earth.”
Consider the natural wonders God has created in this universe. On Mars, the volcano Olympus Mons rises 79,000 feet from the surface of Mars, almost three times taller than Mount Everest, which is 29,000 feet. The base of Olympus Mons is 370 miles across and would cover the entire state of Nebraska. That is a big mountain. The Valles Marineris is a vast canyon on the surface of Mars, stretching one-sixth of the way around the planet, 2800 miles long — about the distance from the Atlantic to the Pacific across the United States — 370 miles wide, 4 1/2 miles deep. Hundreds of our Grand Canyons would fit inside that canyon.
Alcorn is pointing to what God has done in this present universe and speculating that the new earth may have far more spectacular features than that. The new waterfalls may dwarf Niagara Falls. We may find rock formations more spectacular than those in Yosemite or the Alps or the Karakoram Mountains or the Himalayas; and forests deeper and richer than the Pacific Northwest or the Amazonian rainforest. There will be no bondage, suffering, or decay that the present nature has, so there will be no natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, mudslides, floods, droughts, or anything that would torment the earth and destroy the beauty, harmony, and peacefulness of the future world. Verse 1 concludes, “No longer will there be any sea.” Whether you are fine with that or not, what will be will be. But whatever God makes will be spectacular, majestic, beautiful and breathtaking.
In Verse 2, the new Jerusalem descends from God. “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” This is the capital city of God’s eternal empire. There will be both glorious heavenly countryside and a radiant glorious city — rural and urban — in the new heaven and new earth. The city, the new Jerusalem, is the very thing that is promised to Old Testament believers. Hebrews 11:13, 16 says, “All these people were still living by faith when they died… …they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
The country implies a vast, spacious world to explore, teeming with life, spectacular scenic vistas, lakes, rivers, hills, forests, fields, mountains, vast open spaces. The city, on the other hand, implies a concentration of population, shared experiences, relationship, society and culture, fellowship, creativity, the arts, architecture and music. All these are displays of being created in the image of God. The new Jerusalem will descend from heaven already constructed by God’s hand. He has prepared the bride but she has also prepared herself, so we can imagine that our labors in this world help to make the new Jerusalem glorious and beautiful. In the same way, in the next world our labors will be welcome; we will be working in the new heaven and the new earth.
The name of the city, Jerusalem, implies continuity but difference. The word “Jerusalem” was evocative and powerful for the Jews. The old Jerusalem was the city of David, the center of Jewish life, culture, religion and hopes. But it was also corrupted by idolatry and wickedness, so it had to be redeemed by the blood of Christ. This new Jerusalem is perfectly pure, the fulfillment of the Old Testament purpose for God to dwell in glory in the midst of His people. The new Jerusalem is therefore both a city — a place — and the Church, the bride of Christ — a people. We, having resurrection bodies, will have to dwell somewhere. “In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would I have told you I'm going there to prepare a place for you.” Christ is preparing a physical location for his physical people.
The city is “a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” She is made radiantly beautiful for her wedding day, coming down out of Heaven, gloriously adorned and dressed and ready for her bridegroom. Christ has labored to make her ready for centuries of redemptive history through evangelism, discipleship, pastoral ministry, the ministry of spiritual gifts of teaching the Word of God, administration, prayer and faith. All of those spiritual gifts together make her radiant and beautiful and ready for her wedding day.
Paul says to husbands in Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, in order that He might present her to Himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish.” Holy and blameless, without blemish, stain or wrinkle. In every respect, her adornment — kosmeo in the Greek, from which we get “cosmetic” — is magnificent, glorious and complete.
The image of marriage is a powerful Old Testament image. God considered Israel his wife. Jeremiah 2:2-3 says, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord.” Many of the prophetic images in the Old Testament are negative, as God speaks like a husband to His unfaithful wife. The prophet Hosea was commanded to marry an adulterous wife and have children of unfaithfulness as a picture to Israel, guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord. We all are, like the hymn Come Thou Fount says, “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Our idolatrous, wandering, defective hearts will be cured and healed from that at last and purified from our wandering ways. That marriage image is perfected between Christ and his Church.
The Central Joy of Heaven
The Reward of Heaven: God Will Dwell in Glory with His People
Revelation 21:3 says, “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.’” This is the central joy of Heaven. The heavenly tourism books tend to miss this fact, which is one of their big problems. The central joy of Heaven is being present with the Triune God. God has been yearning for this throughout all the years of redemptive history. At last, the dwelling of God is with people. He has been waiting and yearning and working for this moment for thousands and thousands of years. All of His patience and compassion and suffering and labor comes to sweet consummation.
It is difficult to number the times God says this in Israel directly or through the prophets: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Leviticus 26:11-12 says, “I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”
At last we have the fulfillment of the dwelling glory of God. The Greek, skene, is derived from the Hebrew for the word “tabernacle,” Mishkan, so the Hebrew comes over to English in the expression “Shekinah glory,” literally meaning “dwelling glory.” This is the glory that God shows when He is settling in to dwell in the midst of His people. He would use a glory cloud to show that He was with the Israelites in the desert. When the tabernacle was set up, the glory cloud appeared and filled the tabernacle. God’s dwelling glory is the centerpiece of Heaven.
Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon on 1 Corinthians 13, Heaven is a World of Love, detailed the future world. Despite the fact that God is omnipresent, He is revealed in Scripture, especially in certain places, relationally. He was more in Israel than in any other nation on Earth. He was more in Jerusalem than any other city in Israel. He was more in the temple than any other building in Jerusalem. He was more in the Holy of Holies than any other part of the temple. He was more in the mercy seat above the Ark of the Covenant than anywhere else in the Holy of Holies. There was a concentration of the revelation of God.
That is what we will get in Heaven, where we will be swimming in a sea of God, and so deeply, richly satisfied with that. We will be filled with God — this is the reward of Heaven.
He said to Abraham, in Genesis 15:1, “After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’” Abraham would not take the loot, the gold and silver, from the battle with the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, so God appeared to him in this vision, saying in effect, “Well done. Fear not. I am your very great reward.”
Why Does God Want to be with US?
The more I learn about God, the more I see how glorious it will be to fully understand why we want to be with God. But why does He want to be with us? We are sinful, weak, insignificant, corrupted. But God does not see it that way. He yearns to have fellowship with us. Jesus, on the night before he was crucified, said to His squabbling apostles who were arguing about which of them was the greatest, said to them in Luke 22:15, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” It is incomprehensible, but that is the way he is. He wants to be with us; we are his heritage and he is ours.
Other Joys of Heaven: No More Death, Mourning, Crying, or Pain
Other joys of heaven are lesser, but worth discussing. Revelation 21:4 says, “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.” This is the intimacy and tenderness of Christ’s own hand wiping our final tears away. All of the grief and suffering and pain that we have gone through will be finished.
There are various reasons for tears. Personally, what I most regret is my own sin. It often causes me tears of sorrow. To have Jesus wipe those tears away and say we will not weep or mourn over that anymore will be unimaginably sweet. It is helpful to link it together with an appropriate understanding of Judgment Day. Verse 4 and its beautiful promises do not seem to cover Judgment Day like a canopy. That day will be hard. It will be a day of darkness and sorrow. It will be difficult to give Christ an account for everything done in the body, whether good or bad, and for every careless word ever spoken.
Some believe we will not need to face Judgment Day in this way, citing Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But giving Jesus an account is not the same as condemnation. Condemnation is the Lake of Fire. He will not command us who are Christians on the basis of any of our sins “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” We will not be condemned, but we will give him an account. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says plainly, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
God will test the body of our works to see if they are worthy of reward. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 says, “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” We will suffer loss from whatever of our works are burned up; that will be difficult. We will have an emotional reaction to giving account on Judgment Day, but not beyond. All of our faithless works and sins of omission and commission — the wood, hay and straw — will be tested and burned, and then the gold, silver, and costly stones — actions done for the glory of God, from a heart of love, by faith, though imperfect — will be purified by fire and we will be rewarded for those.
We will cry tears of regret on that day: I did not live like I should have. I wasted opportunities to tell people about Jesus. There were poor people around me, and I lived selfishly. I did not do for them like I should have. I did some things, but not enough. What is so amazing is that Jesus, with his holy and nail-scarred hand, will wipe those tears away and comfort us, and then will bring us into a world where those tears will be shed no more. That is incredible; that is his grace.
No More Death, Mourning, Crying or Pain
Death is the final enemy. 1 Corinthians 15:26 says, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” All the destruction and sorrow and fear and anxiety and intense loss and pain caused by death will end, and we will live forever. We will not die. Our relationships will be eternal. We will never say goodbye again. We will not age. We will not reach our prime after 10,000 years, followed by a long, slow, eternal decline. The body will be raised in power and in glory — no decline, no death, no funerals. No more mourning — psychological, emotional, mental anguish — or crying, the physical action that flows from pain.
God’s Present Invitation to an Eternal Home
God’s Direct Activity in Creating this Coming World
Revelation 21:5 says, “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” God speaks from His throne with the voice of kingly, powerful authority.
He says, “Behold [Look at this!] I am making all things new.” This gives a sense of God’s energetic activity, not a deistic world which God sets it up and then removes Himself from it. He is actively, energetically involved in making all things new.
There will be a comprehensive new creation. In this present world, there is no new creation thing except our redeemed souls. The moment we come to Christ, we are made new creations in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Everything else continues in the old order. But then, He will make everything new.
The Command to WRITE
John is commanded to write down what he hears. Our Christian faith is a literary, written faith. We have a book, and this book sets Christianity apart from every other religion in the world. Other religions have holy books — the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, and other writings. But this book is unique. God originally wrote the Ten Commandments with His finger, but then commanded Moses in the wilderness to write down all of His commands that God gave to him. After that, all of the prophets were commanded in a similar way to write down the Word of God. In this final testimony, these words have been written down, and they are trustworthy and true. They are a part of that poor reflection. We see indistinctly, dimly. How do you put Heaven into words? How can you possibly describe in nouns and verbs and adjectives and paragraphs a vision like this? But he said, “Write down what I tell you. The words will be exactly what I want you to say to correspond to this vision.”
The words are enough to get us to Heaven, but not as good as being in Heaven. Amen. We will see him face-to-face, and that will be so much better, but in the mean time, we have these words. Psalm 12:6 says, “And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.”
Verse 6 is God’s powerful invitation to this eternal home based on all His words. Revelation 21:6 says, “He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.’”
It is done, or literally, has become. God has brought this magnificent new world into reality; He has made it become real. He points again to that linear history that spread out over a redemptive history. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. The first world, this present world that will pass away was brought in through Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” [John 1:1-3] And “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” [John 1:14] The Word is Jesus Christ, and through him, the first world came into being. So also through Christ, the eternal world will come into being through the work of the Father.
Isaiah 9:7, speaking of Jesus, says, “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” His kingdom will continue increasing, and we will see it. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Christ’s kingdom, as the waters cover the sea. It will be eternally becoming more radiant and glorious and majestic and beautiful. God wants us there; He is inviting us to enter the Kingdom of God now by faith, and then later, when the time comes, we will enter it with our brothers and sisters.
Are You Thirsty?
Verse 6 concludes, “To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” Think about the thirstiest you have ever been in your life — a hazy, hot, humid day, working outside, you have not had enough to drink and you are parched; or someone crawling through a desert, desperate to find an oasis. Water is life in those cases. Are you thirsty to be in a perfect world like that? I am so thirsty to never sin again and to be around others who never sin again. I hunger and thirst for righteousness. I want to see God — as the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul thirsts for you.
Jesus said in John 6, “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” You will come to a place of perfect satisfaction and be so refreshed in Jesus in Heaven. Are you thirsty for the forgiveness of your sins? Do you yearn to have God say to you, “All of your sins are forgiven through faith in Christ”? Are you thirsty to be reconciled to God and be in a right relationship with Him? Are you thirsty to be in the new heaven and new earth, where there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain? Then come and drink. It is offered freely without cost, as it says in Isaiah 55:1: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”
The Gift is Given Freely to Those Who Overcome
This gift is given to those who overcome. Revelation 21:7 says, “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” We must conquer to get there. We must overcome something. First and foremost, 1 John 5:4 says, “…everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” Faith in Jesus is the victory that overcomes the world. We must overcome all that the world, the flesh and the devil want to do to our souls just for believing in Jesus, to have a saving faith in him. Then, having come to saving faith in Christ, we then must fight the good fight of faith. We must fight indwelling sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. Heaven is given to those who fight that fight. Those who do not are not children of God.
Romans 8:13-14 says, “…if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” You are led by the Spirit into a battle against sin, against the world, the flesh and the devil. That is the road that leads to Heaven. He who overcomes will inherit all this. We are more than conquerors, and those who are born again will overcome. Someday we will see Satan dead at our feet. We will put a foot on his neck. We will see the world system destroyed, and our own lust and sin nature will be purified out of us, and we will be heirs to the Kingdom of God.
God’s Terrifying Warning of Who Will Be Excluded
Who are These People and What are These Sins?
He gives a terrifying warning of those who will be excluded in Revelation 21:8: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
The cowardly are those who care more what people think than what God thinks, who know what to do, but do not do it. The cost is too high. The unbelieving are those who will not believe in Jesus. Whether they have heard the Gospel or not, they will not combine what they know with faith, as the author to Hebrews says. The vile are morally repugnant, morally ugly, excluded because in that world, there will be no blemish, no stain, nothing but purity and holiness. In Christ, we are transformed from being vile to being radiantly beautiful, but those who have not received that transformation are vile.
Murderers. The sexually immoral — we are in a sexually free, permissive age but God has never changed His standard. The magic arts, the sorcerers — pharmakos — those who use drugs in witchcraft. Idolaters — anyone who places ultimate value on created things rather than the Creator. Liars — Psalm 116:11 says, “Everyone is a liar.” Seeing that on the list, we should realize that we are redeemed by grace, though we deserve to be condemned too. We are all the same, but we are redeemed from lying and all these other sins by the blood of Christ. The end of it for those people is the fiery lake of burning sulfur, the second death; a place of active conscious torment and sorrow, not merely the absence of God.
The top priority for any who are outside of Christ is that you come to faith in Christ. That is what this invitation is all about. Believe in Jesus, trust in him. God sent Jesus his only begotten Son into the world to be a human. He is fully God and fully man. He died on the cross in our place as an atoning sacrifice. Put your trust in Him, not in your own works. Trust in Jesus and you will be forgiven of all your sins.
If you are already a Christian, meditate on heaven more than you do; fill your soul with meditations of the world to come. Read Revelation 21 and 22, and feed on it. Let it flow out into good works that God has prepared in advance for you to walk in. Ask the Lord how He wants you to serve Him each day. Find someone who is lost and share the Gospel. Find someone in a place of sorrow or misery, and talk about sadness and sorrow in light of what we have learned today, that we are coming to a place where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. Ask if they would like to hear more about that.
Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the beauty of the world to which we are going, We know we do not deserve it, and can scarcely imagine it. But I pray, O Lord, that You would fill our minds and our hearts with the truth. Help us to understand that beautiful world. Help us to yearn for it and to be hungry and thirsty for it, and to desire it with all of our hearts. Fill us with your Holy Spirit. Enable us, O Lord, to glorify you by putting sin to death and by witnessing by sharing the gospel. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.