Series: Youth: God's Big Story
- The Coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8-11)
- Christ Will Return To Rescue His People: Be Filled With Hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11)
- The New Heavens and Earth: A More Glorious and Eternal Eden (Revelation 20:11-22:5)
There is a real sense in which the things of this world are not enough. I see it in my own life. I want for justice to occur on Earth and am outraged when it does not. I get disappointed when someone lies to me. I am hurt when I am wronged. I hate the pain that I see in this world. I hate that people are starving from a lack of food in this world. I hate it that people die of thirst in this world. There is always a longing for more. And I believe that at least part of that is because we live here on Earth that is but a shadow of our eternal home.
I remember beating Alma in the State Championship game when I was in High School. We had ripped through that football season and gone undefeated having only two close games all year, both of them were against Alma. While my friends were shouting and jumping and yelling, sprinting across the field. I didn’t. I didn’t even make it back to the group for the Newspaper photo. It was nice, but I was floored by the fact that it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I thought that it would be. I graduated High School, only to realize that it was time to begin college. I graduated college only to realize that it was time to start my Master’s Degree.
St. Augustine said in his book “Confessions”, after discussing at length the many sins of his youth and his chase to fill the longing that he had in his life,
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
This is the position that we are all in. We are people created in the Image of God. Though you may not completely realize this yet, this life is full of things that are only shadows of the real and lasting joy that is found only in Christ. And this joy and satisfaction will be found completely in the presence of God at the end of this story we’ve been discussing. It will occur in the New Heavens and New Earth.
Last week we saw that our longings and desires are fulfilled in a person and not a place, namely Jesus Christ. When Christ returns He is the one that brings us full satisfaction and this satisfaction finds it’s great completion in the last chapter of this Big Story that we’ve covered. It will occur in a place called the New Heavens and New Earth where we will finally and fully be completely in the presence of God forever. We will find that this final chapter brings us to a place called the New Heavens and Earth and it is a more glorious and eternal Eden.
A Quick Look Back
Think back to the first few messages. We saw in creation that God had made mankind who was in complete and total harmony with both God and his fellow man. This was spoiled at the Fall in Genesis 3 and in 3:23 God promises that one would come that would crush the head of the serpent. That one has come, His name is Jesus. And when Jesus came the first time, He crushed the serpent by dying on the cross, paying the punishment for our sin and rising from the dead. Christ destroyed the work of Satan in this victorious act.
Satan is still allowed to roam the Earth, but it will not be so. Even though his wound is mortal, he still prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). It will not be until Christ’s return that Satan’s doom is made complete. And, it is at this time that God will set all things right and give complete and glorious joy to His people in a more glorious and eternal Eden.
Here in the last message of this series we will look at the eternal state. The New Heavens and Earth is a more glorious Eden where our greatest satisfactions are fulfilled. We will find that God’s Big Story ends with perfect joy and satisfaction are found in the presence of God forever. But in order for us to understand this well, we must begin by looking at the Final Judgment in Revelation 20:11-15.
God Will Make All Things Right (20:11-15)
There is coming a day when God will deliver His final verdict and judgment upon al the Earth and destroy death itself. Read Revelation 20:11-15.
The first thing we notice is the Great White Throne. The color and greatness of this throne tell us a little about the one who sits in it. It gives us some insight into the character of the Judge. He is great and glorious. His throne is massive and helps us to know His great power and might. God is great and mighty. In fact, He is greater and mightier than any king in all of history. And the throne is white because this Judge is pure and wise. God is completely and totally holy. He is set apart from all of creation in His purity. He is completely and totally without sin. And God Himself is the only All Wise Judge. God is completely and totally powerful. God is completely and totally righteous. God is completely and totally pure. And God is going to judge absolutely everyone.
Everyone, everywhere, without exception will appear before this throne. No one is left out. No one will be able to buy their way out. News stations have gone on and on about Hillary Clinton having been able to run from justice. And now, News stations are reporting that Donald Trump has spent much of his life doing the exact same thing. Power can get you out of a lot of trouble in this life. Money can get you out of a lot of trouble in this life. But it will not be so in the next. There is no evading this judgment. God will judge everyone before His throne.
Here we see, at this judgment, the books are opened. Everything that you have ever done will be judged. Everything that anyone has ever done will be judged before God from the smallest of thoughts to the worst of actions. And here, God will deliver His final verdict upon everyone. For people, this is not good news. Every single one of us has fallen short of God’ holy standard (Romans 3:23). All of us have rebelled against Him and are found guilty before God. No one can stand in the judgment for God is holy and His standard of righteousness is so totally beyond us that it is difficult if not impossible to understand. We are all judged according to what we have done. And this is both good news and bad news for us.
I was disgusted as Brock Turner only got 6 months in prison for raping an unconscious woman. I was even more disgusted when he only had to serve 3 months for it. It also outraged the rest of the country. As he walked out of prison he was carrying a monstrous bag of hate mail that was given to him on his way out. We long for justice to occur. We long for God’s perfect justice to be handed down. But, what we don’t understand is that what we long for also condemns us. We long for God to make all things right, but that will mean death for us. We long to see all things set right, yet God has made a way for Him to deliver His perfect and just punishment of our sin and at the same time give us what we do not deserve.
The Book of Life is then opened. Christ has come and taken the wrath of God upon Himself on the cross. He did this in place of all those who would ever believe. He also rose from the dead. This was God’s stamp of approval. Jesus had completely and totally conquered Sin and Satan. God the Father was completely satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ. Our response to the work of Christ is repentance and faith. Repentance is turning from ruling our own life and trusting in Christ. Those people who have trusted in Christ, their names are found in the Book of Life. They are the ones who escape the torment of the Lake of Fire.
We saw pictures of this throughout God’s Big Story. Christ is like the boat that Noah and his family was secure and safe within as God’s wrath was poured out on the Earth killing everyone else. If you were not found safe within the boat then you were destroyed by the wrath of God. Christ is the pure and spotless lamb whose blood was smeared over the doorpost in Egypt. The wrath of God moved through the city killing every firstborn, unless the blood of the lamb was over you. If you were covered by the blood of the lamb then God’s wrath would pass over you. Christ is the lamb sacrifice that takes upon itself the wrath of God in the place of sinful people in the Levitical Sacrifices. All of Scripture points to this. All of God’s Big Story brings us to see Christ’s perfect sacrifice and its great accomplishment on our behalf.
Christ has come and has accomplished salvation on our behalf. If we are found in Him then God’s wrath will pass over us. We respond to this by turning from ruling our own life and trusting in Christ. If this is us, then the justice that we deserve was taken by Christ and we are found safe with our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life. This occurs in the future. There will be a day of reckoning and on that day, if you have not trusted in Christ then you will have to face the wrath of Almighty God on your own. You will not stand on that day. You will be swallowed up and suffer the wrath of God for all eternity. Trust in Christ. He will save you. Turn from ruling your own life and trust in Him.
God Will Again Dwell With People (21:1-8)
Think back to Adam and Eve. They dwelled with God. They talked with Him without the barrier of sin standing in the way. Their relationship with God was nothing as it is today. Yet, Christ has come and His perfect salvation has accomplished a back to Eden affect in this area as well. Not only will God make all things right, but He will again dwell with people in the way that He did so long ago.
Read Revelation 21:1-8.
We see right out of the gate here that God will make all things new. Heaven and Earth will pass away. That does not necessarily mean a complete destruction and reconstruction, but it could. What we know is that Heaven and Earth as they exist now will not be and God will bring about a more glorious recreation. Do you know any loved ones who were believers that passed away? They very well could be saying “Heaven’s not my home I’m just passing through.” This is because they have not yet reached their final resting place. Heaven is much better than Earth, for you are with the Lord (Philippians 1:23). At the same time there is something more glorious than Heaven that is coming.
As we saw last week, the reason that our eternal home is so glorious is because God is there. And in the New Heavens and earth God will dwell with us in much the same way that God dwelt with Adam and Eve in Eden. When all things are made new we will enter an Edinic state in which we have a close relationship with God once again. We are brought into God’s family through the death of Christ while we are here on Earth, but it will not be fully realized until that day when Christ returns and ushers us into the New Heaven and Earth. At that time the closeness with God that we so desperately long for will be completely realized.
We used to have a dog named Cole. He was a much more personal dog than I enjoyed. I would pet him for a bit and playe with him, but it really was never enough. He desired to be with me more than I desired to be with him. Amanda would say, “He just loves you so much.” And I would almost always say, “I just wish that he would love me from a distance.” But that was never enough. Unlike me, God has gone to great lengths to bring us into a close relationship with Him through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. God will again dwell closely with His people. Right now, because of sin we have to love God from a distance, but soon it will not be so. His care for us in the New Heavens and Earth will be something that we can feel. It says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes”. That is not to say that there is mourning and sadness in the presence of God, for that is also taken away by the work of Christ, but it speaks to the intense and personal care of God that we will see and feel in that day.
I know that God loves me now. I know because of what He has done. I know that God loves His people because of the cross. I can look at that event in history and see that. I occasionally feel my soul warmed by God and His love. But here is the truth of the matter. This world, sin, and all that this comes with leaves me somewhat separated from God. There is coming a day when this will not be so. God has gone to great lengths to bring me to Himself and give me the ability to be near Him and not love Him from a distance but rather in His presence.
And again we find that this is given to those who believe (Vv. 6-8). Remember earlier, the one whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life evades wrath. Here those people are called conquerors while everyone else is being thrown into the Lake of Fire. Believers have been adopted into the family of God and their heritage is the New Heavens and Earth. These are the ones who will conquer the world because they have trusted in Christ. God has worked mightily in them, enabling them to believe, enabling them to change, and enabling them to conquer this world of sin and temptation. They have now lived a life apart from this world system and have conquered. And they are the ones who receive this heritage of closeness with God in the New Heavens and Earth.
Every sickness, every death we see, every hardship, every tear we shed should lead us to long for the day when these things will be no more. These should move us to wait for the glorious day when God will dwell with us and these things will be no more.
My wife sings a song occasionally called “Blessings” by Laura Story. Shortly after getting married her husband had a brain tumor and they didn’t know if he would even live through the surgery. Then they didn’t know if he would remember her, his wife when he woke up. Then it took 8 years for him to recover enough to work. And his recovery is still ongoing. It’s been a long process. Before he was able to work she wrote
“When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win we know that pain reminds this heart that is not, this is not our home.”
- Let the pain of this world increase your desire for the New Heavens and New Earth. Let it cause you to live for the life to come rather than this life.
God Will Make Our Dwelling More Glorious Than Eden (21:9-27)
People dwelt with God in Eden, but it wasn’t like this. This is much more glorious than what God called good in the first two chapters of Genesis. For comparisons sake you could read the first 2 chapters of Genesis and then come back and read Revelation 21:9-22:5.
Here we see God making our home with Him glorious.
I enjoyed the show “The Office”. In it Jim buys his parents’ home while Pam is gone. He has bought a home for them to live in together. It has ugly shag carpet and an ugly picture that they can’t get off of the wall. The whole place looks less than desirable but Pam loves it because Jim had bought a home for them. That is not the way this story goes. Yes, God will make a forever home for us. But it will not be less than desirable. It will be absolutely glorious.
The picture we get here is of the New Holy City coming down from Heaven and it is radiating with the glory of God, “like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal”. This is a city filled with splendor and majesty. This is the opposite of a home with shag carpet and an ugly picture stuck on the wall. This is awe inspiring and glorious.
In the Garden of Eden a snake came and attacked. Do you remember? The enemy entered into Eden and absolutely destroyed what was going on. This new city is impenetrable. It is not vulnerable to attack. The high walls and many gates guarded by angels tells us that it is invulnerable. Not only is God with us completely satisfying us and giving to us an incredible home to live in, but it is invulnerable to any attack. But the text seems to toss all of this aside as rather unimportant compared to one huge detail.
“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.”
Streets of gold, that’s good, but I’d get bored with it after a while. A city filled with jewels, I could get tired of it. But I can’t get tired of this. God Himself is there. He is Himself giving light to this great place. The reason that this place is so glorious is not its decorations but the fact that God is there in all of His radiant glory.
And we see also that he curse that brought deterioration to the Garden of Eden will be removed. Think back to the beginning of our journey through God’s Big Story. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden where they dwelt with God. There in Eden was the tree of life and two rivers. And here we find the same thing with a few differences. Read Revelation 21:27-22:5.
Here we see the Rivers of the Water of Life flowing from the Throne of God and the Lamb. The original waters of Eden came from God, but these are different. They actually flow from the throne of God. Not only did He create these rivers, but they continue to come from His throne. And, the Tree of Life has returned. That tree that gave the fruit of never ending life is found in the Garden of Eden as well. And nothing there will be cursed.
The curse that we have lived with for so long will be no more. The curses handed down at Genesis 3 will have ended. There, in the New Heavens and Earth nothing is cursed. We will work, but the toil will easily produce. We will love each other, but there will be no more strife. We will live there and never die. The curse has been ended.
And then we find the biggest difference between the text in Genesis and here. God will be surrounded by His people and they will reign forever and ever. Here there are people from every tribe, nation, and tongue in intimate closeness with God. He will be surrounded by His people forever.
- God will be Surrounded by His People and They will Reign Forever and Ever—God is bringing to Himself, at this moment, people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to be His people forever. And, He will be surrounded by those people forever.
The Big Conclusion
God’s Big Story ends much like it began. And in this we see God’s purpose throughout the story. The ESV Study Bible sums it up well in the commentary over this chapter.
“God’s ultimate purpose in redemptive history is to create a people to dwell in His presence, glorifying Him through numerous varied activities and enjoying Him forever. The story begins with God in eternal glory, and it ends with God and His people in eternal glory. At the center stands the cross, where God revealed His glory through His Son.”—ESV Study Bible
If you are not a believer, I hope that the many warnings have sunk in. Christ has died and paid the punishment for sin. He has risen from the grave and conquered the power of sin and death. Will you trust Him?
If you are a believer, then the New Heavens and Earth should do something to you. It should cause you to trust in Christ all the more. In the midst of the hardships trust in Christ and know the pain of this world is nothing in comparison to the joy that you will one day be immersed in. When you are tempted to disobey, realize that your home is not here. It is there. You can undergo the uncomfortable today knowing that you will one day be with Him forever.
In the Martyrdom of Polycarp, written in 155 says this about why people could undergo such great sufferings for their faith.
“But indeed all the other martyrdoms that God willed to take place (we must be careful to ascribe all things to His governance) were blessed and noble. No one could fail to admire their high-hearted endurance, and the love they showed for their Master. Some of them were so cut to pieces by the scourges that their very vitals were plainly exposed to view, down to the inmost veins and arteries; and yet they still bore up, until even the bystanders were moved to tears of pity for them. Others displayed such heroism that not a cry or a groan escaped from any of them; which seemed a clear proof to us all that in that hour of anguish those martyr-heroes of Christ were not present in the body at all – or better still, that the Lord was standing by their side and holding them in talk. So it was that, with all their thoughts absorbed in the grace of Christ, they made light of the cruelties of this world, and at the cost of a single hour purchased for themselves life everlasting. For them, the fires of their barbarous tormentors had a grateful coolness, for they held ever before their eyes their escape from the quenchless flames of eternity, and looking up they beheld with inward vision the good things in store for those who persevere. Things which no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mortal heart has dreamed of were revealed by the Lord to those men…”—from the Martyrdom of Polycarp
What made these people able to endure suffering? It was their view of the life that was ahead. What makes you able to endure hardships in your own life? Should it not be the same?
What made them able to be obedient, even though it meant death? It was their view of the life that was ahead. What makes you able to be obedient, even though it does not seem at the time to benefit you? Is it not the same?
R. Dwain Minor