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The God of New Beginnings (Revelation 21:1-8)

October 25, 2015 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Happy Ever After (Revelation)

Topic: Revelation Passage: Revelation 21:1–21:8

Happy Ever After

The God of New Beginnings
Revelation 21:1-8
(One Lord: No One Like You)
October 25, 2015

 

I. In the End, God

As we open up this morning to Revelation 21, as we prepare to immerse ourselves in God's word to us in the opening verses of this chapter, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the final scene of the entire Bible. This is it. This is all we need to know about what is beyond the life and world we know; beyond God's final victory; beyond God's final judgment. This is it. As I read through verses 1-8, think about the central theme of this passage. What connects these verses together? This is what John writes...

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. [the sea being a symbol for chaos and evil][2] And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] 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. [4] 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.” [5] 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.” [6] And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. [7] The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. [8] But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

The central theme? The big idea? While many would tend to focus on our future home and the quality of life we will enjoy and our eternal vocation and all the juicy details of how it will all work, how can there be, in the end, any theme other than God. We can't miss it. These verses are all about God, from beginning to end. Do you see Him there?

 

II. The Passage: “I am Making All Things New ” (21:1-8)

This morning in our time together in God's word, I'd like to show you seven truths this passage reveals about God. We'll use these points to go verse by verse through this section.

 

1. The God Who Creates (vs. 1, 2)

First of all, look back at verses 1 and 2. John picks up language from Isaiah 65 and 66 and describes the “new heaven” and “new earth” that God will create after this present heaven and earth pass away.

Remember in the last chapter, when God came to judge humanity, we are told, From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. (20:11) Well, that void has been filled. Notice how the final section of the Bible takes us right back to the very first section of the Bible. I like how the pastor and writer Eugene Peterson described this:

The biblical story began, quite logically, with a beginning. Now it draws to an end, not quite so logically, also with a beginning. The sin-ruined creation of Genesis is restored in the sacrifice-renewed creation of Revelation. (Eugene Peterson)

But just as our mortal bodies will be transformed to be like the resurrected and glorified body of Jesus, I believe this heaven and this earth will not simply be replaced, but transformed into something new (C.S. Lewis does an excellent job describing this connection and transformation in the last book of The Chronicles of Narnia, when the door is closed on the new Narnia as the faithful enter a new Narnia).

And so, if when Genesis 1:1 speaks of the creation of the heavens and the earth, it is preceded by God, then in the same way, the mention of a new heaven and earth in Revelation 21:1 must point us to the same God, the God who creates.

And He isn't simply the God who will create a new universe, He's the God who will create and is creating a people for himself. That's what we see in verse 2: And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. If you recall, the last time we heard about this Bride, it was in 19:7, 8. Those verses, along with verses 9 and 10 of this same chapter, and the rest of the NT, help us understand the symbolism employed here. The new Jerusalem is not a picture of our future home. It is a picture of our future selves. It is the church.

 

2. The God Who Comes (v. 3)

And this picture, this vista is simply expanded in verse 3. The God who creates is also the God who comes. He comes to dwell with His people in the fullest way possible, like a groom coming to be with his wife, to take her to himself forever. Our communion with God in a new world is the very thing Jerusalem had always pointed to: the city of the righteous, in whose midst God himself dwells.

And the language here is biblically monumental. What is expressed has been called the tripartite or three-part promise of Scripture. It was first expressed in Leviticus 26:12, where God said: And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. You may already know that if you read through the entire Bible, you will find some version of this promise popping up in many other passages. But they all lead us to Revelation 21:3.

 

3. The God Who Comforts (v. 4, 5a)

And the beauty and wonder of the God who comes is that He comes as the God who comforts. Look again at verse 4 and think about every burden you've ever carried, every tear you ever shed, every fear that's ever gripped you, every worry about the future you've suffered under. John writes...

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.”

Again, this draws from God's words through the prophet in Isaiah 25:8...He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.

I love how verse 5 of Revelation 21 carries this idea through. God speaks to reassure us in light of the suffering that so often dominates every aspect of our lives: And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

 

4. The God Who Confirms (v. 5b)

And if there is any doubt in our minds about this kind of future, we must see here that the God who comforts is also the God who confirms. The second half of verse 5 records God's instruction to John: Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Think about these reassuring words in light of the seven churches for whom Revelation was written. Think about what chapters 2 and 3 tells us about the challenges they faced. Think about what the rest of the book tells us about the future for which they had to prepare themselves.

They, along with all of us, are prone to doubt when things seem so dark. We need to hear all of God's word, and we need to hear this word, “These words are trustworthy and true.” Hold onto them brothers and sisters.

 

5. The God Who Completes (v. 6a)

And look at how the first half of verse 6 adds to this reassuring confirmation from God. What's interesting is that the verb in God's declaration in verse 6 is a third-person plural verb. That means the literal translation of the opening words of verse 6 is: And he said to me, “They are done!” Could this be referring to “these words” from the end of verse 5? Could the whole context point us to all the promises of God?

Think about what God is telling us here. There is a day coming when every single promise of God will be perfectly fulfilled; when all of his redemptive plans will be finished. We live day by day in light of God's promises, don't we - promises he has already fulfilled and promises yet to be fulfilled. But in our future and forever home, we will live day by day in a world in which every promise of God has been fulfilled. We will dwell with, we will serve, we will worship the God who completes every one of His purposes and plans.

As He goes on to tell us in verse 6: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. This is how God introduced himself back in verse 8 of chapter 1. So not only does this title form bookends in Revelation, but it points us to God's position over all history. From A-Z, from beginning to end, God is the Lord over these and everything in between. Of course everything will work out. Of course we will enjoy the happy ending God has guaranteed us.

 

6. The God Who Covers (v. 6b)

The final part of verse 6 simply reminds us how any of this is possible. Listen again to those beautiful words: To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

This promise of eternal satisfaction echoes another verse from Isaiah, chapter 55, verse 1:

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

This is another way of describing the future God has in store for us: you will be satisfied, forever. You will never be thirsty again. The words of Jesus in John 10:10 will be fully fulfilled:
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

So how is it that God can offer something as valuable as “the water of life without payment”. Because He is the God who covers. He has covered the cost by covering us with the blood of the Lamb - blood we've heard about throughout this book (1:5, 5:9, 7:14, 12:1). He "so loved us that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

 

7. The God Who Calls (vs. 7, 8)

But notice how this passage ends. The God who creates, the God who comes, the God who comforts and confirms, the God who completes and covers, is still, even this morning, the God who calls.

Very clearly, verses 7 and 8 connect us right back to chapters 2 and 3, forming yet another set of bookends for this Revelation of Jesus. We found the phrase “the one who conquers” at the end of all seven individual letters to the churches of western Asia Minor. The only other time it appears is right here in verse 7. And remember, the promises to conquerors, the promises in those mini-letters, promises like the tree of life, and the new Jerusalem, and protection from the second death, those promises are further described in these closing chapters of the book.

What does it mean to conquer? It means to stand firm for Jesus, to the very end. Notice how verse 8 uses terms that describe the path of compromise for those who confess Christ. These are the very temptations these churches faced: to be cowardly when called to stand for Jesus, to be faithless in the face of persecution, to go along with the detestable, murderous, and immoral ways of the culture; to dabble with sorcery and idolatry; to lie about one's true lord.

The book of the Revelation is the voice of the God who calls us to conviction and away from compromise. This vision of the future should not only inspire in us peace and comfort. It should also spur us to action.

 

III. The Future is Now

So what does God want to inspire inside you this morning, in light of this kind of vision?
Well, the Apostle Peter provides at least one answer for us. As he writes in chapter 3 of his second letter about His “Lord and Savior” and those who mockingly ask, “Where is the promise of his coming?”, he goes on to give us a very similar description of the end of all things. Peter writes:

But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly...[10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. [11] Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, [12] waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! [13] But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (II Peter 3:7, 10-13)

Did you notice all the parallels, and even the order of the events? But clearly Peter believes visions of what is to come should change our lives now; that holiness and godliness would be the qualities that characterizes us, and not compromise and apathy and conformity to this condemned and fading world.

But again, that life is fueled by more than a vision of what is to come. Even more so, it is inspired by a vision of who is to come. Revelation 1:8...“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” What we've seen this morning is that the God who comes, the God who creates, the God who comforts, the God who confirms, the God who completes, the God who covers, the God who calls is the God of new beginnings.

Think about that: if your faith is in Jesus Christ this morning, then every day, every hour, every minute and second, you are moving toward a new beginning. Does that sound good to you? Is that what you desperately desire? A new beginning? In II Corinthians, God, through the Apostle Paul, fills out this idea of the new creation a bit more. Listen to this stunning truth:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (II Corinthians 5:17)

Sound like Revelation 21, doesn't it? But this verse encourages us that, in some sense, the future is now. As Hebrews 6:5 puts it, we have tasted...the powers of the age to come. By His grace, through faith, because of His Spirit, God enables us to walk each day on the path of new beginnings. In our responsibilities and relationships, in our feelings and our finances, in our circles and struggles, God wants to show Himself as the creating, the coming, the comforting, the confirming, the completing, the covering, and the calling God.

Our hope is always the cross, because as Peter tells us in I Peter 3:18, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God... When you know and love and serve God, there are no dead-ends. But there are opportunities for God to bring a new beginning, in light of the new beginning that's to come. Will THEN be better than NOW? Of course, but don't forget how Paul went on to encourage the Corinthians in II Corinthians 6: For we are [present tense] the temple of the living God; as God said, [here comes Leviticus 26:12] “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (II Cor. 6:16)

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