O God of Heaven, You have promised us that what You have laid up for us is more than we can ever ask or imagine. Though we sinned against You and plunged ourselves and Your creation into fallenness and chaos, in Your mercy You have acted through Jesus the Lamb of God to save all those who trust in Him, to make everything sad come untrue! We look forward eagerly to the day when You bring history to an end, and usher us into Your presence forever. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read Revelation 21-22
In this final vision of Revelation, the Holy Spirit finally launches into eternity. Throughout the topic of the book, we’ve learned that the key to understanding it is to see that its visions are not so much about showing us the future as showing us the present—the time between the two comings of Jesus Christ—and thereby to encourage us to stand fast in our faith. But today, in this eighth major vision, we finally press forward entirely into the future with a glorious vision of what’s waiting for us when all is said and done.
In essence, these chapters unfold a glorious vision of the treasures that await Jesus’ people in eternity. By treasures, we don’t mean crowns and gold and diamonds, either. In fact, much of these chapters’ imagery seems calculated to say, “Those aren’t real treasures. Here we walk on gold. We build our walls with diamonds. We cast our gates from pearls.” No, the real treasures of eternity are infinitely greater than pretty metals and stones. They’re the kind of treasures that are worth giving your life—even your very soul—to pursue.
We could probably spend a lifetime mining these chapters for glimpses of what God has prepared for His Son’s people, but let’s look at four in particular.
First, these chapters promise the re-making of everything. God promises once and for all to make everything new and pure and good, never to age or crack or rust or decay or grow old. “I saw a new heaven and a new earth,” John says (21:1). That’s a great and ancient promise from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, and here it comes to pass. The re-making of heaven and earth is a beautiful bookend to the whole of history, setting right everything that had gone wrong in the beginning. So Genesis tells of the creation of the world and its breaking at the hands of sinners; Revelation shows us a new creation, one unbroken and undefiled, utterly free from the ravages of sin. Genesis shows us the sun, moon, and stars being called into existence to give the world light; Revelation shows us a world that doesn’t need those lights, because it’s lit by the presence of God Himself. Genesis shows us the cunning of the serpent, and his victory as he tempts Adam and Eve to rebel against their Creator and plunge the world into pain; Revelation shows us the serpent crushed and defeated and cast away, and a city where God Himself guarantees that nothing evil or impure will ever enter it. Genesis shows us that awful scene of Adam and Eve cast out of God’s presence, of an angel with a flaming sword closing the way to the Tree of Life; Revelation shows us, at long last, the gates of the city thrown open forever, people streaming into the presence of God, and the Tree of Life now a grove in the heart of the city, its fruit always and forever available for the taking.
WATCH AND LEARN
Watch this biblical theology of heaven and earth (6:42).
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Second, these chapters show us the end of suffering and fear. At the center of this re-created world is the holy city Jerusalem. It’s a glorious vision because it points to the end of the suffering and fear that have so marked this world and our journey in it. Every tear will be wiped away, death will be no more, and there shall be no more crying or pain or mourning. Moreover, 21:9–21 tells us the city is unfathomably large, that she is set on a high hill, and that there’s no need to ever close her gates (21:25). The point is that this city—the dwelling place of God with His people—is unassailable. There is no more threat, nothing left to fear.
Third, Revelation 21–22 promises us a pure and unending life. That’s almost unfathomable to us, because we are encompassed by death. Everything decays, including our own bodies. The curse of death that God pronounced in Eden slowly but inexorably works itself out in every one of us. And worse, there’s no cure. The way to the Tree of Life is shut, and we’re left to wander and remember and yearn and finally die. But read Revelation 22:1–5. Finally, here is unfettered, overflowing life! And it’s not even merely that the way to the tree of life is opened again. The tree is all of a sudden everywhere! The water of life runs down the great avenue of the city, and the Tree of Life offers its fruit without limit to all the nations of the earth. And notice where the river of life comes from—the throne of God and the Lamb. Yes, death may continue to work in us, but it does not reign anymore. Jesus holds the keys of death, and one day it will be destroyed, and the nations will frolic in the River of Life.
Finally, and above all, these chapters promise us an intimate friendship with God. Perhaps the most glorious phrase in all the Bible is in Revelation 22:4: “They will see His face.” Since the tragedy of Eden, this has been the great longing of humanity, the object of all our yearning, our searching, and our grasping—to see the face of God. And yet that goal has been hopelessly out of reach. But here, at last, God’s people look Him full in the face, and their joy is complete.
Spend some time beholding God in worship! (5:24)
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1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
- This world and its troubles have a tendency to darken our minds to the hope of eternity. These chapters of Revelation, however, remind us of what God has in store for His Son’s people, and if we meditate on them carefully, the light of heaven will fill up the dark, hopeless spaces in our hearts and loose our tongues in a hope-filled explosion of longing.
- Do you look forward to the day when all things are made new, when suffering and fear are ended, when life flows freely and death is no more, when you look God full in His loving and merciful face? That is not the world we live in now, is it? This world and this life are full of mourning, of crying, of tears, and of fear. And sometimes, that fear and mourning grips our hearts like a frozen hand. This is a world where Christians are chased out of their homes to a mountain and surrounded by people who want to kill their children. It’s a world where terrorists explode bombs in a playground on Easter with the intent of killing as many children of Christians as possible. There is, here, so much fear, so much suffering, so many tears. And yet, here, the Bible holds out the promise that all this will come to an end—that it will all be made right, that it will all be made new, that life will conquer death.
- If nothing else, this book reminds us that, as Christians, we’re pilgrims in this world. This life, this world, is not our home; no, we look forward to another city, one not made by human hands. And as a result, our eyes—like those of any pilgrim—are cast toward our home, toward heaven. Let the promise of heaven fill you with hope and encouragement today. Pain, suffering, and tears will not last forever. One day our God will put an end to them forever.
- Think back over these chapters. What parts of this vision of eternity that the Holy Spirit gave to John fill you with the most longing? The most hope? Are there any parts of this vision that are still confusing to you? Why?
- Read Ezekiel 47:1–12. What similarities with Revelation 21–22 do you see there?
- John makes it clear throughout Revelation that all the blessings of eternity come through Jesus Christ. Compare Revelation 22:13 and 22:16. What is the difference between what those two verses say about Jesus? (Hint: Verse 13 contains divine titles, while verse 16 contains the titles of a human king.) What does that tell you about the character of Jesus?
- Give feedback to your Deepen Discipleship Group about your experience these past 6 months–areas of growth, change, and challenge. Any plans for new habits and activities for the future? We, at IMB Training, would also love to hear your feedback. Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org