Revelation 21

Series - Revelation
Scriptures - Revelation 21
Presenter - Pastor Matt Surber
Date - May 1, 2022

Pastor Matt Surber studies the new heaven and new earth that are described in Revelation 21.


Sermon Notes

We begin with a view of heaven coming down to earth; a time when the prayers of God’s people for centuries, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” will be answered.

So before we look at this “Good news today…” Quick review of Chapter 20. Final judgment…  (Revelation 20:12), “And I saw the dead, great and small standing before the throne and the book was opened.”  Evil, death and Satan are throne in the Lake of fire.  Anyone whose name is not written in the book of life is also throne in the lake of fire for eternity.  This is the second death. Sobering

Chapters 21 and 22 contain almost all the Bible records concerning the eternal state. Very little is said in the Old Testament about heaven. But here it is in these chapters. After the Great White throne Judgment of chapter 20, John sees a whole new creation spring into being.

Read Revelation 21:1-4

How awesome! They bring us full circle, to the beginning of the Bible again. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That creation is what is called here “the old heaven and the old earth.” They shall pass away, as we are told, but a new heaven and a new earth are coming. It is the Apostle Peter who tells us what happens to the present heavens and earth. In 2 Peter he says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar. The elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare,” (2 Peter 3:10). That ends the old heavens, but now a new heaven and earth appear where Jesus reign, not only upon earth, but throughout the entire reach of the vast universe of God.

There are four statements in this opening paragraph that tell us the purpose of the new heaven and the new earth: The first verse suggests strongly that the New Jerusalem, this great city that John describes, is to be the capital of the whole new universe. And it will be a universe greatly changed. It will not be like the one we have now. Now Im not sure that this means that God will eliminate the present heaven and earth but He definitely changes it and cleanses it. When we become Christians we become new creatures in Christ, but we are still the same persons, but now changed and cleansed. So also the old heaven and the old earth will be cleansed — by fire. We know today that the present universe in its farthest reaches (even farther than the new Hubble telescope can show us), is governed by the same laws. One of them is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the law of entropy, which says this present universe is running down. It is all decaying; losing its energy; it is growing cold. But in the new heaven and the new earth that law is reversed. Instead of running down the universe is powered by the presence and glory of God. Instead of losing energy it will gain it and manifest a unity, stability, symmetry and beauty that the old heaven and earth never had. One aspect of this, pictured here, is that there will be no more sea. I heard a guy say, “I don’t think I’m going to like the new heavens and the new earth, because I love the ocean.” I understand that feeling. I love the ocean too. But the one reason we have a salt sea that covers more than half of this planet is because it is God’s great antiseptic to cleanse the earth and make life possible on earth. Had it not been for the ocean, and the salt in it particularly, life on this planet would have ceased many centuries ago. It is the ocean that purges, cleanses, and preserves it. The sea is an antiseptic in which all the pollution and filth that man pours into it is absorbed, cleansed and changed. But there will be no more pollution, no more filth, no more need for cleansing in the new universe. Though we are not told this, I think there will be large bodies of fresh water, pure and completely clean that we may enjoy in that new heaven and new earth.

Then the second thing said here is, the New Jerusalem is called a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Everyone loves that picture. We all love weddings (at least the ladies!). The climax is when the bride comes down the aisle, beautifully dressed for her husband! Everyone forgets that poor guy waiting for her at the altar! Every eye is on the bride because she has prepared herself for weeks to meet her husband there. This new city is called both a city and a woman, just as the false bride, “Babylon the Great,” was both a city (Rome), and a woman symbolically. We have seen how Babylon was destroyed for its evil. 

A bride speaks of intimacy, and a city speaks of community. So we have a picture here of the redeemed of God, each one given a body of glory empowered with limitless energy! (Illustration, getting old) When opportunity comes in that day you will not say, as we often say today, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” (Matthew 26:41). No,  you will be able to respond to every opportunity with a glorified, fresh and living body. We will live in close intimacy, not only with the Lord himself, but with each other as well. These bodies, our current bodies are aging and ultimately dying (body begins to die around 27)…I keep looking in the mirror for signs of change in me. What do I see? Wrinkles and grey hair. But it won’t be like that then. We will have bodies of glory and beauty that will be like His.

The third thing we are told here is that this will be the dwelling place of God. Isn’t that marvelous? The home of God! The place where God lives, with and in His people. This is when the name “Immanuel” (“God with us”), will be fulfilled, and when the New Covenant will be fully worked out, “They will be my people, and I will be their God,” (Jeremiah 24:7). It is all in this beautiful setting. Heaven, someone has well said, is the place of “no more” — no more death, no more sorrow, no more parting, no more pain, no more tears, no more evil!  (Talk about this )It like the old song says:

There’s no disappointment in heaven,

No weariness, sorrow, no pain,

No hearts that are bleeding and broken,

No song with a minor refrain.

The clouds of our earthly horizon

Shall never appear in the sky.

But all will be sunshine and gladness,

With never a sob nor a sigh.

Amazing isn’t it? It is so beautiful that it is even hard to believe. I think John felt that way for he is given certain words of assurance to help him with his possible doubt.

Read Revelation 21:5-6a

He brackets all of time in the phrases, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” Everything in between comes from Him. These are words of truth that help us to believe. Remember on the cross Jesus said the words “It is finished,” (John 19:30). After the gloom, the darkness, pain, sorrow and anguish of His separation from the Father, he cried out, “It is finished!” The basis of redemption was settled. The sacrifice was ended. The price was fully laid. Now he says, “It is done!” Redemption is complete. The redeemed are safe home in glory. Everything that God wants done is done! Not one thing is left unfinished. The fourth thing the passage suggests as the purpose of the New Jerusalem is that it will be the home of the redeemed:

Read Revelation 21:6-7

What unbelievable words! This city will be the home of the redeemed, and the only qualification for it is that you be thirsty. Nothing on earth satisfies. Wealth, fame, pleasures and treasures — none will meet that deep thirst of the soul. That is why the rich, the wealthy, the beautiful people, all are looking for something more. They are not satisfied. 

But here is the promise to satisfy that thirst. People who want more — who want God — are promised that they shall drink of the water of the spring of life. These are also called “overcomers” who “inherit all this,” all that God has created. Peter tells us that there is waiting for us “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for us,” (1 Peter 1:4 NIV). Those who are changed by God’s grace are to be forever His sons and daughters! 

Now, by contrast, in a reference back to what we have seen of the judgment there is in Verse 8 a description of those who are not admitted:

Read Revelation 21:8

As we have seen all through this book, God does not want this for anyone. His desire is that none should be judged or condemned, but as we have seen, God is just as well as loving and the word points out, “they judge themselves.” Here there are three attitudes of heart which result in five visible deeds that mark the lost. The three attitudes are the reasons why some will miss this beautiful city. First, the cowards, i.e. the fearful, those who are afraid to take on the yoke of Christ, who fear to confess Christ, who are unwilling to be unpopular for a little while. They shrug their shoulders and turn away from the offer of life. Second there are the unbelieving (faithless), those who know it is true, but don’t want it and refuse the evidence, deliberately turning their backs on truth. Third, there are the detestable. The word means “to become foul.” You do not start out that way, but by feeding your mind with filthy things — foul literature, filthy attitudes and actions, you become foul-minded. If any of these are your attitude, then out of it will flow murders, fornication, adultery, occult practices, and finally, hypocritical living, liars. 

Jesus warned of that — those who profess to be Christians but really there is no change in their lives. None who practice these activities will be in the city of God. 

In these eight verses we have looked at the purpose of the New Jerusalem. Now John is given another vision of it and describes it in wonderfully symbolic language as the great city of God: First, we are informed as to the structure of this city.

Read Revelation 21:9-14

I am sure someone is asking, “Is this literal or is it symbolic?” I hope, by now, as we have been going through this book, you have come to realize that there is a lot of symbolism. So, all through this book, we find the blending of lots of symbolic and some literal. I believe there will be a great, visible city of incredible brilliance and glory, located somewhere above or within the atmosphere of the earth, which also will picture activities and relationships that are going on within the community of the saints. Those will be characterized by stability, by symmetry, by light, by life and ministry. That is what is described here. 

The high wall of the city speaks of separation and of intimacy. If you want to have an intimate garden party, you meet in the yard behind a wall. That wall shuts out other things and people. It speaks of intimate fellowship and separation from intrusion. The whole of Scripture with one voice speaks of God’s desire to have what He calls “a people for my own possession.” Everything in the universe is, in a sense, his possession. All animals, all creatures, are his. There are billions of angels and they all belong to him. But the saints are peculiarly God’s own possession. That is because He has made them to correspond to Himself. He can share with them the deepest things in His being and in his heart. They satisfy Him and fulfill Him.

The gates describe means of access and egress from the city. There is an amazing verse in John 10 where Jesus says, “Whoever enters through me will be saved, and He will go in and out and find pasture,” (John 10:9 NIV). That seems to be a portrayal of the widespread ministry of believers throughout the eternal ages. 

The new universe will surely be as big or bigger than it is now — and it is mind-blowing in its immensity now! Billions of galaxies, far larger than our own galaxy of the Milky Way, fill the heavens as far as the eye can see by means of the greatest telescopes we have, and still we have not reached the end. I believe that every moment of eternity will be an adventure of discovery. Those gates are named for the tribes of Israel. Many of these brilliant passages that now entrance, but puzzle us will come to life then as we have never known them before. They will lead us out to new adventures that we have never dreamed of in our wildest imaginations.

The foundations speak of what is underneath which gives stability and permanence. They are named for the 12 apostles. These foundations speak of New Testament truth and practice. Things that we only faintly grasp now will be wonderfully understood and experienced then, especially the three things that abide forever: faith, hope, and love! “These three,” says Paul, “and the greatest of these is love,” (1 Corinthians 13:13).  I find myself stumbling and unable to express fully the beauty that is portrayed here, but I hope that the inner eye of your imagination will make much of it. Now we are given the measurements of the city.

The angel who talked with John had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its wall. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and as high as it is long [that is about 1500 miles]. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. 

When God measures something it is a sign of his ownership. The number 12, which is everywhere in this account — 12,000 stadia, 144 cubits (that is 12 times 12) wide — is in Scripture the number of government.  It is a city of beauty and of symmetry, just as long as it is wide, just as tall as it is long. Think of that as a cube. It will be a city of perfect proportions. That is what it symbolizes — perfectly proportioned wholeness! (OT Tabernacle…Temple/Holy of Holies was a cube- where God dwelt with his people)

Eugene Peterson says this about the contrast of Babylon and the New Jerusalem:

“The two symbolic cities of the Apocalypse, Babylon and Jerusalem, show [how a wall creates group consciousness and interrelatedness]. When evil reaches its highest density it forms a whore-city. That city is a concentrate of evil and is destroyed. Likewise, when God-consciousness and the interrelatedness of love reach their highest density, a bride-city is formed.”

Not only is the size and shape of the city revealed, but the materials from which it is made are given to us.

Read Revelation 21:18-21

Let your imagination picture that marvelous city — gleaming transparent gold, with foundations sparkling with light in cascading colors, pouring forth from great jewels embedded in the sides — a kaleidoscope of light and glory! What are those foundations? As we have already seen, they are the twelve apostles. This then portrays the truth that the apostolic revelation is filled with light. There is a verse in Ephesians 3 where the Apostle Paul speaks of “the manifold wisdom of God that is to be made known by the church to rulers and authorities in heavenly places,” (Ephesians 3:10). That is describing this same phenomena. The word “manifold” is literally “many-colored,” — the many-colored wisdom of God — fresh wisdom flashing from old truth from the apostles.

The gates are made of single pearls. You have heard many jokes about St. Peter and the pearly gates, which we usually conceive of as a single great pair of gates. But there are twelve gates, each one is a gigantic pearl, and St. Peter is nowhere to be seen at any of them! God must have some huge oysters somewhere in this new universe for each gate is but a single pearl! Pearls speak of beauty out of pain. Beauty comes from pain in an oyster. To relieve its pain it covers the irritant with a soft lustrous nacre that hardens into a beautiful, glowing pearl. It describes beautifully how the redeemed come from the pain of Jesus. He was the husbandman who came looking for a pearl of great price. He found one, a beautiful pearl which came out of the pain that He suffered as He went through the terrible anguish of the cross. Out of that pain came the church of Jesus Christ, the pearl of great price. He sold all that he had to buy it. This means that the redeemed will never forget for all eternity the pain and shame of the cross of Christ. 

The transcendent light of this city is described next.

Read Revelation 21:22-27

In the new heaven and earth there is no temple. Why? Because the true temple, of which the one in the old heavens is a picture, is the True Man, Jesus Himself. God in man that is the temple! Thus Paul says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19a). If God dwells in you, you are a part of this heavenly temple. You share the honor of being the home of God, the dwelling place of God. And from that comes radiant light. People can see all things by that truth. So glorious is it that there is no need for the sun or the moon. It does not say they are not there; it simply says there is no need for them in this city of God. 

There will never be night there because it is lit continually by the glory which is God in man. The gates will never be shut because there is no night there and therefore no need for protection. Cities close their gates at night because they are in danger. But there is nothing to destroy in this new world to come. The kings of the earth will bring their glory in, not to compete with the glory of God, but to have it revealed by the light of God. Nothing impure will enter because only the redeemed are admitted. …Only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

It is going to be glorious – and it is going to be a reality!  I cant wait – but don’t miss this last verse…. Its only going to be those whose names are written in the Lambs Book of Life. (Gospel)

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