The New Jerusalem

In Revelation 21:9–27 John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, shows you the glory of the new Jerusalem. It’s magnificent, mind-boggling, something wonderful to anticipate. But perhaps you are asking: what practical use does it have for me today in my Christian life? Remember that John is writing to believers who are suffering. The Holy Spirit knows that what they need, and what you need, is to see what John is shown in the Spirit.

See the new Jerusalem. The magnificence of the city is overwhelming. John is taken by one of the angels to a high mountain (recall mountain top meetings between the Lord and his people). The scene contrasts with the wilderness of Revelation 17:3, from which John views the fall of another great city, Babylon. The overwhelming impression is light—reflecting the glory of God. The brilliance is compared to jasper, normally an opaque stone, but here, clear as crystal. The jewels bring to mind the breastplate of the high priest, each bearing the name of of one of the tribes of Israel, which the high priest wore as he entered the tabernacle and later the temple, Exodus 28. The measurements are symbolic—12,000 stadia. That is about 1,400 miles. If one corner were in Newberg, another would be in Minneapolis. The width, length, and height are equal (that would put the top of the city in the area of some satellites). The cube shape is significant, reminding you of the much smaller Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and later in the temple. The foundations are jewels, and each gate a pearl. The street is gold, but gold that is transparent as glass. The city is one of overwhelming, indescribable magnificence, because God is there with his people. And the city is the bride of the Lamb. You can’t draw a sharp distinction between the city and the people who make up the city. Continue reading

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The New Heavens and New Earth

The Christian takes profound comfort in the knowledge that even death does not separate him from his Savior. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. In Revelation 21:1-8 John takes you to an even deeper comfort. He shows you, and all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, what happens to you after the final judgment.

See the new Jerusalem! The new heaven and earth are real places. Revelation 21:1–8, though part of the final two chapters, is also part of bridge between the glory of the new Jerusalem and the account of God’s judgment. The last part of Revelation 20 focuses on the last judgment (with mention that those whose names are written in the book of life, are not punished), and our text focuses on them (with mention of judgment for hypocritical rebels). The passage uses lots of figurative language, but the symbols describe something real. The symbolism is needed because our minds and imaginations, clouded by sin, cannot fully comprehend what God has in store for us. There have been theories in parts of Christianity that the heavens and earth will be annihilated and brand new ones created. But God pronounced his creation “very good,” hardly pointing to simply a temporary purpose for it. Isaiah 60 speaks of the renewal, the re-creation of the heavens and earth—though describing it in language suited for his Old Testament hearers. In Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15 Paul draws a parallel between our resurrection and the renewal of creation. Your resurrection body will certainly be changed (1 Thessalonians 4), but you will be raised and changed. Similarly the creation will be perfected, as we shall see, purged from sin and its effects, but it is God’s good creation in which you will dwell in the new heavens and earth. “‘All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth and sky and sea.’ To sing that line from this well-known hymn is to confess that the present praise of creation is not merely pre-eschatological, destined in the end for the silence of eternal extinction. The present creation awaits the eschatological voice it will receive when, free at last from its ‘bondage to corruption,’ it will ‘obtain the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.’ With this obtaining together with the sons of God, creation’s praise— beyond all sighing and in a manner beyond present comprehension— will heighten their enjoyment of that freedom and glory in the new creation of God. (Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “What ‘Symphony of Sighs’” in Redeeming the Life of the Mind, pp. 160-161). An obedient Adam, if you can talk carefully about what would have happened, was not to continue for all eternity in the Garden, continuing to guard against the temptations of Satan. After his period of testing, the fruit of the Tree of Life (from which as a fallen creature he was barred) would have been his to eat. He would have moved on to far greater glory. And, the creation, instead of being cursed by his fall, would have moved on to something even better as well. Now that has been realized, but only because the second Adam has done what the first did not do. Continue reading

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Books Were Opened

The big one is coming. We all know that. We also know the big one might turn out to be the very big one. The 700-mile-long Cascadia subduction zone that’s just off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington will, sooner or later, produce a mammoth earthquake, scientists say.” So writes Douglas Perry in the Oregonian last Friday. Historically, the big one has come at roughly 300–500 year intervals, and the last big one was in 1700. Telling people it is coming (8.7 to 9.2 on the Richter scale) is one thing. Getting us to take some kind of action is another. It may happen soon, or it may not happen until you have been dead and buried for a couple hundred years—in which case you likely will not notice. In Revelation 20:11–15 John writes of an event that will most certainly happen, though we do not know when. And it will involve, not only the living, but also the dead—every single person who has ever lived will stand before God’s throne. Continue reading

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Satan’s Doom

Revelation 20:1–10 are probably the most difficult and controversial verses in the book. Yet, despite the difficulties, the basic message is clear.

Satan is bound—and loosed. A mighty angel binds Satan. Have you listened to an orchestra play a symphony? In some ways, the Book of Revelation is similar. The introductory notes of the symphony may contain a musical theme that is picked up, repeated, modified, and which may become a central theme in the musical piece. Suffering Christians have been reassured repeatedly that the righteous Judge will set things right. Christ’s coming in judgment has been described repeatedly: Revelation 6:12–17; 8:1–5; 11:15–19; 16:17–20; 18; and 19. Like a movie, which may trace events from various perspectives, John has show you the events at the end of the age. A mighty angel carries out the will of his Lord. In Revelation 1:18, Christ clams to have the keys of death and Hades. This angel has been given the the key to the Abyss. He seizes the dragon, identified as Satan, and imprisons him in the Abyss. Notice that this is not a total imprisonment of Satan. He is still a dangerous enemy. But he is restrained specifically with respect to his ability to deceive the nations. Think of the spiritual darkness that covered the world before the coming of Christ—and the contrast that began with his earthly ministry, his death, resurrection, and his ascension. John has pointed you there in Revelation 12:5. Continue reading

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King of Kings and Lord of Lords

As North Americans we may be fascinated with British royalty when it involves princesses, princes, and weddings, but we have a history of being less appreciative of kings. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a declaration, which alleged: “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.” Included in the list that follows was, “He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” One might wonder what the members of that Congress would have thought of our present Federal bureaucracy in comparison to the one that triggered their war, but I digress. Although Independence Day is this week, this morning’s message is not about that event. Rather, it is about the great, final battle fought by the King of kings, as recorded in Revelation 19:11–21. Our history may make it difficult to appreciate the importance of a true king, but both Lewis and Tolkien, with strong Christian roots, make clear in their fiction that for things to go right, the true king needs to be on the throne: sons of Adam and daughters of Eve on the four thrones in Cair Paravel, and Aragon in Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor. Continue reading

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