BEGINNING WITH THE END IN MIND - Revelation 21 & 22 April 30, 2023
Updated: May 5
MESSAGE BY PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM
BETHANY BAPTIST IN RICHMOND, BC.
This morning I have the unique challenge of connecting the beginning and the end yet with the difficulty that the ending we’ll be looking at, actually has no end. So in a sense, I’m doing the impossible which, if you think about it, is appropriate. After all how do we possibly understand God taking on flesh so we could know Him? More than that, that this same God would suffer and die so we could be with Him? And how can we possibly understand the inconceivable of all that heaven is and all that awaits for those who put their trust in His Son? And yet these parts of the story are inextricably linked because without a Christmas and a Cross, there is no heaven and without a heaven, there is no Christmas – at least, no Christmas that has any meaning at all.
When I thought about this connecting of beginning and end, a friend came to mind, who can’t read a book unless he reads the last chapter first. Very simply, before he will make a serious dent in the story, he needs to read the last chapter first and only then does he begin with the ending in mind. So, in similar fashion, that is what we are going to do this morning – entering the story with the end in mind which is great way for Christians to live.
As we’ve been looking at the end times told us in Revelation, it’s not an imperative that we understand all the events between now and then but it IS imperative that we personally know where we fit in God’s unfolding story. Revelation’s conclusion points to something glorious, an end that should compel us to take a close look, because IF the story is as laid out, it should prioritize how we are to live. And the story’s conclusion? that Jesus Christ, IS King of Kings and Lord of Lords and that He is soon coming Rev 22:7,12,20 to forever reign. And the best news of all, He’s given us His personal invite to reign with Him in this place to come.
But for many this presents a problem because they can’t accept His invite as given. His invitation didn’t come on gold embossed letterhead. No fancy lettering. Just an invitation written in simple script. He could have sent something far more elaborate but had He done so, few, if any, would have thought themselves worthy of the invitation. It’s true, some would have thought themselves deserving – and many still do. These are the ones who try to dress the part, believing that the things they’ve done, the people they are, should qualify them as people that God must accept. In short, these are people who believe they can craft their own invitations rather than the one sent. Many don’t think there’s any invitation to give thought to. And then there are a vast number who know themselves to be: too common, too broken, too messed up for any gold sealed invite from the Throne which is exactly why the invite was designed to come as it did.
God designing His invitation so no one had to dress up in any glorious way. In fact, recipients needing to dress down not dress up. One doesn’t dress up to go a stable but far too many, believing themselves kingdom worthy, are unwilling to dress down to step into the mess of a barn or humbly bow before a Cross. But through an unimpressive stable door that leads to a Cross is where we need to bow low to meet a King who gives entrance into a Kingdom beyond any kingdom that’s ever been seen.
For a few minutes, I want to take us, past the entrance door to get just a glimpse of where the footsteps leading to a manger continue on to a Kingdom and a Throne. To a place that is gloriously new, gloriously unspoiled, gloriously unblemished. Let’s take a look at a few things we are told about it, some of which is stated but not explained. • 21:1-5 introducing us to things that are NEW:
21 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. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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. 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.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Let’s look at some of these new things spoken of, the first one being a New heaven
So, an atmospheric heaven? or the starry heavens of space? Or the Heaven where God dwells? All 3? Not told but I suggest this new heaven will involve every place Satan’s fingerprints have touched and every place Satan’s footprints have walked – all of these will be made new. Then a:
NEW EARTH - though OT prophets point to this time, they don’t make clear distinctions between the Millennial kingdom and the eternal kingdom. What we do know is what we considered last week, the eternal kingdom is distinct from the millennial kingdom. In the eternal kingdom there will be no death, no Temple and no sun, moon or seas (deep sea fishermen, get your lines in now). No more exploitation, no more thrones of power, no more fractured relationships, no more divide of the privileged and the pauper. No mildew. No disease. No blight. All new that will never be old.
NEW JERUSALEM – God prepared, marriage ready. The old Jerusalem, the place of King David’s throne was Temple centered where the high priest entered once a year - God’s temporary answer for man’s sin. BUT not this God designed and God constructed New Jerusalem - its dominant feature is that it will be the dwelling place of God with man. A place of celebration and joy.
Ancient King David's Temple in Old City of Jerusalem
We are further told 1st this Kingdom is Lustrous: there is no sun and no artificial light – LED or otherwise, because this Kingdom is radiant from the glory of God • he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal 21:10,11.
In the past any appearance of God’s Glory - kept us away. Moses was told, no man can see My face and live Ex 33:20 – that a look at God’s glory would destroy. In Rev 4 we were shown another picture of His glory but in that place we could only come close enough to look on – amazed by the inexpressible, bewildered by things seen - in awe but as of yet, - not near; but now we live in. No longer looking on but Living In. Not uninvited. Not afraid to come because – then we will have been re-made to live in the brilliance of His glory. His Glory is our glory.
His brilliance no longer reveals our unworthiness, NOW His glory reveals God’s righteousness in us. All has been made new. There is NO accusation that can be made against us. So this New Jerusalem is lustrous, 2ndly it is:
A Kingdom of INCOMPARABLE VALUE: • its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal…. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel…. And the 12 gates were 12 pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass 21:11,18-21. Though we have the descriptors, it’s incredibly hard to capture.
This place, so upside down from what we know on earth. In God’s Kingdom, the stones we call precious are stones that will be underfoot, on which heaven’s royalty walks. The foundations – abundant in what we deem rare and the gates – 12 of them, made of a single Pearl. Those attacking Scripture have a great time with this one – a pearl, that which is is created by an oyster – as if - so their conclusion? - something as large as this is impossible. I don’t doubt that these Gates of Pearl could be symbolic but I wouldn’t go there too quickly. When God creates, He isn’t dependent on what His creation can produce. God - very capable of superseding what His creation can do and in what these gates represent, we are given a GREAT TRUTH. A pearl is created by:
• something very small that comes unexpectedly into a place unprepared for it to come.
• Embedded in flesh, it is hidden from sight,
• its presence – unwanted and covered over and yet
• from this unwanted - Treasure!
••• Treasure created in the wounding.
Sound like anything else you know?
I think it no accident that these Gates of Pearl are the gates through which the Heavenly city is entered.
And here’s the even more beautiful part, we are told these gates of Pearl – immense and beautiful - are always open and will never be shut :25. You and I have entered and will never be denied access through the Pearl of Great Price Mtth 13:45,46 that created beauty in the wounds borne on His back and the nail prints driven into His hands and feet. Immense, lustrous, costly – and beautiful. So: Lustrous – filled with glory, of Incomparable Value – rich beyond description and:
3rdly BEAUTIFUL IN ITS COLOUR:
Her appearance was of jasper and other precious stones of various colors. Rev 4, that we looked at earlier, told us the same, that there is a rainbow of brilliant colors surrounding God’s Throne. We are also told that her walls were of jasper. Jasper can occur in numerous colours but a predominant one is RED. Obviously I can’t say with certainty but I don’t think we will have any shortage of reminders that our dwelling with Christ has been blood bought!
So is what we are given here - a restored Eden, a ‘let’s begin again’ remake? Well by everything described, I can tell you this, it’s not! There’s no allowance for a serpent; no tree you cannot eat; no rebellion waiting to break loose and no curse still to come. Rev 21:17 tells us that, Nothing unclean will ever enter it. EVER!
Instead we are given something that is all new! Because God deals in new things. He doesn’t just renovate. He doesn’t just repair. He doesn’t just re-fashion. He re-CREATES. If you like God’s ‘REC’REATION is to CREATE.
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new Is 65:17, 43:18
Listen to how Rev 22:1-5 describes it: Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its 12 kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. How good is that!
These are pictures the prophets give us of a new earth and there are so many more. If you like, they are pictures of a new playground but this is a playground on which you have never set foot. More than that, it’s a playground you never imagined to exist. How do I know? Well for one thing, Isaiah just told us, that the former things won’t even come to mind. I’m quite certain, that among other things, this reference to former things is talking about life’s struggles and pain but I think it’s also referencing all the joys, all the delights, all the Disneyland experiences we’ve ever enjoyed. All the best days we’ve ever had will be nothing compared to the heaven God has for us. That means - the past joys of ‘wonderful victories’, our most overwhelming experiences of awe, our best moments of intimacy, our best sunsets – in the light of heaven’s glory – are former things that won’t even come to mind!
In 1 Cor 2:9 Paul tells us, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. Though we can’t dismiss the following verse that God has revealed “these things” to us through the Spirit” and by that, we have reason for our hope for what’s ahead, I believe there is still a sense that what God has prepared for us is beyond anything our minds can lay hold of. That our best thinking about what Heaven will be like, will fall so short as to be comical.
Isn’t it true that we have the hope of life eternal but we don’t really know what that means. We have the assurance of being saved and forgiven but we don’t really understand the magnitude of that forgiveness and salvation. We have the promise of a forever Kingdom dwelling with an always accessible King but really, how can we possibly know what that will be like? Known by Him. Loved by Him. Drawn close by Him. By Jesus – the King. By Jesus Lord God. But this King and this Lord is my friend – who loves me with an everlasting love. And so when it comes to our understanding of what heaven holds for us, I again come back to, No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
There’s one more thing we need to understand about this place – the Bible uses a lot of different words to describe heaven. In one place it’s called ‘a country’, in another, ‘a city’, elsewhere ‘a kingdom’ and a ‘paradise’. But in John 14 it is called, My Father’s house, and that is another way of saying, ‘It is home.’ Though it’s not always experienced this way, home is a place where you can be yourself - where you’re always accepted and loved. You’re not just a guest. You are a resident. You live there. That is home. Something deep within tells us, this is the way home is intended to be. Jesus is saying, ‘I’m going to take you to My Father’s house, and it will be your home, too. Because you’ve been adopted into the family as His child. So you’ll be home exactly where you belong.’
And WHAT a HOME!!!
Let me tell you what you won’t find in this home – no wheelchair ramps, no medicine cabinets, no 911 security systems and no, ‘Beware of dogs’ signs. And surrounding that home, staggering unemployment. No pharmacies, no physicians, no optometrists, no audiologists, no massage therapists. No assisted living residences. And oh yes, no lawyers! Now contrary to what some of you like to think, I didn’t say there won’t be any lawyers in heaven. Just the ones that are there, will be unemployed.
It will be home in every sense Peter tells us is, “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and UNFADING.” 1 Pet 1:4 That what you look at and what you do will never lose its awe. But the best thing about heaven that surpasses precious stones and glorious light: HIM! Emmanuel – God with us. • 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. 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.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment 21:3-6
The One who created everything - no longer distant, no longer afar. We are His people - because of Jesus. Tears wiped away - because of Jesus. Death and evil banished - because of Jesus. An enemy conquered - because of Jesus. Water for the thirsty and a banquet for the hungry 22:17 - because of Jesus. Is it any wonder why He is to be the center of our worship, the center of our love He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End and in Him everything is made new.
To make certain we get it right, Rev 21:5 and 22:6 underscore, “Write it down - these words are faithful and true” because they are guaranteed by the ONE who is Faithful & True Rev 19:11. This isn’t some fanciful dream or some imaginary Peter Pan banquet. This Kingdom is real - far more real than anything you and I have ever known.
No wonder the response of the little girl, staying the night at a friend’s house, away from home for the very 1st time. She did fine during the day, but when it got dark, she got nervous. The friend’s mother, perceiving this, asked, “Honey, are you getting homesick?” With childlike innocence, yet far more wisdom than she knew, replied, “No ma’am, I’m getting here sick!”
The ‘here sick’, which brings me back to place we are invited to enter this kingdom, back to the unimpressive delivery of a small bundle that came into the dark world of the ‘here sick’ to show us the way home.
God’s story written in darkness and obscurity – far removed from the glory of kingdoms and thrones. God’s story written in the shadow of a Cross - His suffering, His sacrifice, His blood that no King should have to bear. His story written in front of the brilliance of an open tomb so we could come into the glory of His kingdom and the beauty of His throne.
Coming as Light into a world of darkness. Light that entered our world 2100 years ago. Coming for the the needy and the broken and the hurt.
To a people :2 – 4 “who walk in darkness” – a glorious invitation.
All God’s doing – coming into a simple place, an obscure place, a ‘where God meets man’ place Is 9:6. An invitation with no gold edged lining. No fancy script. No embossed letterhead. Just an invitation written in simple script – written in blood - inviting you and me into life everlasting and a future that far exceeds anything we can possibly imagine. This world, not simply better than the best we’ve ever experienced but a world far, far beyond. A world that is entirely new, whose lustre will never fade, the awe that it inspires, never becoming less. All ours by accepting what Jesus reached out to give.
And the message of Revelation? It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from
the spring of the water of life… The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”
And let the one who hears say,
“Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come;
and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. 21:6, 22:17.