We have come to the 21st chapter of the Apocalypse. I want to call this study, ?A Longing Fulfilled.? There is a longing in the human heart for something more, something better than what we are experiencing in this life. I see evidence of this everywhere I look today. We hear reports on the news about the number of folks who suffer from depression. I know that there are medical reasons why people suffer this horrible malady, but I will tell you that much of our depression and discouragement with life is because we know there has to be something more than what we are presently experiencing. I visit with people on a weekly basis that are in a crisis situation of some kind. They are not content in their quagmire because they feel in their heart that what they are experiencing is not the norm, there has to be something better out there somewhere. Each of us has friends who have gone through a divorce; some of us have experienced the nightmare of divorce ourselves? Why? Because what we experienced was not what we thought it would be. People get disappointed with their mate, their relationship, and they choose to end it.
We love books and movies that have a happy ending because we hope that our lives will have a happy ending as well. We love these stories because we believe in our hearts that this is how it should be, we should all live ?happily ever after.? There is a longing in the human heart I tell you. The tragedy today is that so many folks have traded in their ?longing? for ?loathing.? Because of the trials and troubles of life, because of the disappointments that come on a regular basis, many people end up hating their life, despising their situation, and never hoping for anything more than what they are presently experiencing.
The troubles and trials of life are a given my friend. Troubles come to saints and sinners alike. Trials will come to the hearts and homes of those who love the Lord with all of their heart as well as to those who curse the name of God. Disappointment is no respecter of persons. We all experience disappointment in life, disappointment with how we expect God to act in our life, and disappointment with ourselves and those around us. The question is not, ?Will we have disappointments and trouble in life?? The question is, ?How will you respond to the troubles and disappointments of life?? There are only two options for us. First, we can respond by trying to escape. There are a multitude of escape routes for us to take. Some folks try to deal with their troubles by escaping through drugs, alcohol, affairs, work or some other means to get their mind off their troubles. You and I both know that these only compound our troubles. Those who are really troubled, and desperate, commit suicide to try and alleviate their problems. Those of us who have had loved ones who have taken their life know that this only compounds the problems for those who are left behind.
There is a second option for those of us who have not had our longing for something better realized?we can know in our hearts, because of the teachings of God?s Word, that our longing for something better will be fulfilled one day. Not in this life, but one day, our longing for something better will not only be fulfilled, but our greatest hopes and dreams will be exceeded in a way that we cannot even begin to imagine.
In Hebrews 11, the great chapter describing the inductees into the ?Hall of Faith,? we read about people like Abel, Noah, Enoch, Jacob, and Abraham who lived by faith and yet never had the longings of their heart fulfilled in this life. Read along with me.
13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, 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. (Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV)
I want to assure you this morning that the longing you have felt in your heart is not a ?Pollyanna? innocence or misguided understanding about life, but it is rooted in God?s Word. Throughout God?s Word we read about God?s promise of something better. In Leviticus 26 we read about God?s promise made to His people if they would simply walk in obedience to His commands. It is a conditional promise??if you do this then I will do that.? God says,
11 I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. (Leviticus 26:11-12 NIV)
We all know that Israel did not walk humbly with God, but they rebelled against God and did what they wanted to do. In 586 B.C. God?s judgment came upon His people for their disobedience. Solomon?s Temple was destroyed and God?s people were carried away into exile in Babylon. While they were living in Babylon, in exile, God reminded them that they wouldn?t always be in exile, He had not abandoned them, He had something better in mind for them in the future. In Ezekiel 37:25-28 we read.
25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.'” (Ezekiel 37:25-28 NIV)
Israel has seen the restoration of God take place in their country. God has brought His people back from exile, He has reestablished His people in the country that He had given to them, but what we have seen God do in the lives of His people is nothing like what we will see God do in the future. Let?s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Revelation 21:1-8.
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And 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. 4 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.” 5He 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.” 6He 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. 7He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 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.” (Revelation 21:1-8 NIV)
Ten times in the book of Revelation we have read the phrase, ?Then I saw?? What did John see? He saw a new heaven and new earth. The Greek word for ?new? is one of the most used words for ?new? in the Greek New Testament. The word is ?kaino,j? (kainos) and it means, ?recently made, fresh, of a new kind, unprecedented, or unheard of.? We see the same word used in other places in the New Testament. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul wrote,
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)
When someone accepts Christ as Lord and Savior of their life then they become a ?new creation.? They are different; they are of a different kind. We also see the same word used in Hebrews 8:13 where the writer says,
13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:13 NIV)
The writer of Hebrews is telling us that the ?new? covenant is altogether different from the first covenant. It is a not a ?reworked? covenant, it is a new covenant, altogether different than the first covenant God made with His people. It is not based upon the Law, but upon grace and the sacrificial death of God?s Son, Jesus, our Savior.
The ?new? heavens and ?new? earth are not a heavenly urban renewal program, but it is a new heavens and a new earth. What does that mean? That?s a good question. We don?t have a lot of information about the details, but let me assure you that is a beyond our wildest imagination.
In verse 2 we read where John saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem. Read along with me.
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (Revelation 21:2 NIV)
What do we know about the new heavens and earth? What do we know about life in the new Jerusalem? We know that it comes down out of heaven from God. S. Lewis Johnson, in his sermon on this Scripture, speaks about the limited information we have about heaven and the after-life. He says that he can sum up it up with these words.
On us, there is a new name. In us, a new song. Around us, a new Jerusalem. Under us, a new earth. Over us, a new heaven. Before us, always new revelations of the never ending love of God. (S. Lewis Johnson, A New Heaven and a New Earth.)
I love that. Dr. Johnson has such a wonderful way of getting to the heart of the matter in his teaching of Revelation. One of the things that I have learned during the past many weeks of studying Revelation is that it is rooted, deeply rooted, in the Old Testament. Let me give you an example from our Scripture for today. Take a look at Isaiah 65:17-25 with me.
17″Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. 20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. 23 They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. 24Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. 25The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 65:17-25 NIV)
You can see from this Scripture that the longing of the human heart is rooted in God?s promise to His people. If you and I took the time to compare Isaiah and Revelation we would see that these glorious visions are not exactly the same. There are some differences. Now let me show you another example of what I am talking about from Isaiah 66:22-24.
20And they will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the LORD– on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,” says the LORD. “They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the LORD in ceremonially clean vessels. 21And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites,” says the LORD. 22″As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure. 23From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD. 24″And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” (Isaiah 66:20-24 NIV)
Once again we hear echoes of this Scripture in John?s glorious vision in Revelation 21, but it?s not exactly the same as John?s vision is it? Why is that? The answer is really quite simple: God?s prophets, His messengers, use human words to try and describe something that is so far beyond our understanding that human vocabulary will always fall far short in describing what God has planned for His people. That excites me! You and I have seen and experienced some marvelous things in this life, but we?ve never experienced anything like what we are going to experience.
In John?s glorious vision there is one lock-tight reality that we can know about the new heavens and the new earth and that is that God will be there. Read Revelation 21:3 with me.
3And 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. (Revelation 21:3 NIV)
What can we know? We can know that God will be there. He will be with His people. What a wondrous thought! Those who first read this letter must have been encouraged to know that they would no longer suffer under the hand of an evil dictator like Domitian. Those of us who are struggling in our day must be encouraged to know that the day is coming when our struggle will cease and we will simply enjoy the company of Almighty God. ?God Himself will be with them and be their God!? This is good news for God?s people, for those of us who have a longing deep in our heart, for those who?ve been disappointed in life, for those who have endured long, hard struggles in life. It is good news for us now, not just one day, but now, because we know that our longing will not lead to disappointment.
We are told in verse 4, ?He will wipe every tear from their eyes.? Isn?t that good news! There are no tears in heaven. There are no tears in heaven because there is no disappointment in heaven. Isn?t that good news! There are no tears in heaven because there is no death in heaven. Isn?t that good news! There are no tears in heaven because there is no mourning in heaven. Isn?t that good news! There are no tears in heaven because there is no crying in heaven. Isn?t that good news! There are no tears in heaven because there is no pain in heaven. Isn?t that good news! There will be no tears in heaven because the old way of doing life will be over and done. Isn?t that good news! That is good news. This is what John tells us in verse 4.
4 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.” (Revelation 21:4 NIV)
Who are these promises for? Well, I?m so glad you asked. Take a look at verse 7 with me and we will find out. 7He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:7 NIV) The one who overcomes will inherit all of this! The Greek word that is translated ?overcomes? is the word, ?nika,w? (nikao). The word means ?to conquer? or ?come off victorious? or when it is used of Christians it means, ?to hold fast their faith even unto death against the power of their foes, and temptations and persecutions.? Let?s look at some other places where the word appears in the New Testament. In John 16:33 we read about a time when Jesus was speaking to His disciples.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
In 1 John 5:3-5 we read about how God?s people overcome. This is not a ?get-tough-and-suck-it-up? program my friends. God?s provision for you and me is much more than encouragement. Read along with me.
3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:3-5 NIV)
Who is it that will overcome? John tells us, ?Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.? So, follow me now, are we talking about mere belief in Jesus as the Son of God? Is it enough to simply say that you believe ?in? Jesus? If you were to poll folks in America today you would think that would be the case. So many of us modern-day Christians profess a faith in Jesus, we may even attend church now and then, but there is no pursuit of holiness evident in our daily life. There is hardly any difference in the way we live our lives and the way the folks of the world live their lives. John says if you love God then do what He says?live the life.
The Apostle Paul knew what it was to be an overcomer. He wrote to the church in Rome and said,
35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37 NIV)
Did you notice the things Paul listed that seek to separate us from God? Trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, or lack of our daily necessities, dangers, or sword?all of these hardships would seek to get us to doubt God, to turn us away from the Father, but Paul says none of them has the power to accomplish their goal. Why? Because we are more than conquerors through Jesus!
The overcomers will inherit all that God has prepared for His people. We don?t overcome by simply mouthing some simplistic faith in Jesus. We overcome by living in the fires of trouble and temptation and yet not succumbing to the pressure to give up or give in. I had lunch this past week with a dad in our church that is going through the fire right now. As we talked he encouraged me by saying, ?Mike, when we get through this we won?t be hearing someone else?s testimony about how faithful God is, we will have our own testimony. I am not going to give up now. I?ve got to stand and trust the Lord.? That, my friend, is the mindset of an overcomer!
Last of all, before we close our study for this morning, I want you to notice who will not be present in the new Jerusalem. Read along with me in Revelation 21:8.
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.” (Revelation 21:8 NIV)
These eight types of people will not find their final resting place in the new Jerusalem, but they will find their end in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. If you were to put together a list of the ?10 worst people in the world? who would you list? Would your list be filled with mass murders like Adolf Hitler? Would your list include people who abused children? Would you list drug dealers, smut peddlers, and the like on your list? Who would you list on your top ten? Isn?t it interesting who heads the list in Revelation 21? Those who are cowardly and unbelieving. The exact opposite of the overcomers. Those who give up and give in will not find a home in heaven. It is no wonder that murderers will not have a home in heaven. God gives life and He alone has the authority to take life. The sexually immoral will not find a home in heaven. What does that lead you to conclude about our society in which sex is worshipped as a god and treated so casually? Once again, the gift of sexuality is the wedding gift of God to a husband and wife. It is not to be treated like a cheap suit, it isn?t to be abused, or paraded around for laughs or cheap fun. Those who practice ?magical arts? will not find a home in heaven. This is an interesting word. The Greek word translated, ?magical arts,? is the word, ?farmakeu,j? (pharmakeus) and it means, ?One who prepares or uses magical remedies.? It is word that we get our word, ?pharmacist? from today. In the ancient world there were those who tried to influence God and others by using magic potions, charms, or chemical substances. John is not saying that pharmacists will not have a home in heaven, but he is saying that those who try to gain influence through manipulation by drugs and magic potions will find no home there. What does this lead you to conclude about our drug crazed society where every week we are reading about the latest fad to hit the neighborhood? John tells us that idolaters and liars will not find a home in heaven. What are you worshipping today? Who has your heart today? Where do you spend your money today? Don?t lie now, remember liars won?t have a home in heaven.
I want to encourage you today to allow the Lord to use this study to search your heart and soul. Remember that this letter was written to the Church, not to a pagan people. We need to recognize that we are vulnerable people who so easily get off track. Our commitment to the Lord is flimsy and weak. For some of us, we come to church each week, but there is no desire for holiness, no desire to pursue God outside of Sunday morning. Let Him search your heart and turn your life around so that you will find your home in heaven one day. Today, I pray that you will become an overcomer by turning your life over to Jesus, the One who gave His life for you so that you might be an overcomer in this life and experience the fulfillment of the longing of your heart in eternity.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
May 20, 2007