Let us pray…
Living God, help us to hear your holy Word with open hearts so that we may truly understand; and, understanding, that we may believe; and, believing, that we may follow in all faithfulness and obedience, seeking your honor and glory in all that we do. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
We are now near the end of the book. We have only two chapters left. At this point, we learn about the destruction of the world as we know it and the judgement of both believers and unbelievers.
So we come now to the place where the events described by John goes beyond symbolic histories. These are now, including the day of judgment, prophetic in nature. They lay down the state of affairs on matters which we expect beyond this creation.
As usual these verses comes us intrepreted into different meanings so it is an essential task for us this morning to avoid any speculation or succumb to private interpretation. Many of the symbolism are still grounded in Scripture so we need to interpret them in line with whole counsel of God.
I divided our preaching this morning into two points. And they are: 1) Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man; 2) Behold, I am making all things new.
I will treat each subject separately but use the whole passage from verses 1 to 8 from chapter 21 of the book of Revalation. So let me read the whole passage as part of the introduction and then continue with each of the points:
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.” 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. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 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.” (verses 1-8)
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man
The term “Behold” is often used as a literary sign to express emphasis by demanding attention to the next words after it. This speech from verse 3, according to John, came from the voice from the throne which means it was spoken with authority so we all better listen. Again this reminds us of the Regulative Principle of Worship where in our liturgy we believe that when God speaks and his people listen.
This declaration from God himself speaks of the reality, not only of our worship here on earth, but goes beyond this creation and describes for us the state of affairs in the new creation. Our worship of the Triune God as a church militant here on earth is consummated as the permanent state of affairs when heaven and earth become united reality.
This is what John wants to communicate to his readers and now its hearers. God permanently dwells with his people. The verse declares, ““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.”
There is much biblical and historical meaning to the term “dwelling place of God” here. It is often referred to as the “tabernacle of God”. And in the Old Testament the picture of God dwelling in the midst of his people is clearly a type fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament.
In the tent of meeting, God made sure Israel follow strict instructions in the making of the tabernacle. We can read them in Exodus 25-30 and 35-40. The tabernacle is meant for God to signify his presence in the midst of his people. We know God is present everywhere so obviously that is not what was meant here. God is transcends everything in creation so his presence sustain all things. However, God chose to specifically express his abiding presence to his people by imminently showing his glory to them. In Exodus 40:32-34 Scripture reads, “When they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, as the LORD commanded Moses. And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” Again, tabernacle means the abiding presence of God.
And yet Israel sinned before God and after repeated warnings from the prophets, God finally widthrew his abiding presence and promised to deliver them from their sins in the last days.
Ezekiel recorded the event in his book when glory of God left the temple. This was before its destruction by the Babylonian army. It reads,“Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them (Ezekiel 10: 18–19a).” Then right after this tragic event the kingdom of Judah was captured and went to exile for years and where only able to return back to Jerusalem when Cyrus allowed them to. And even at exile all of Israel longs for the return of God’s abiding presence as promised to them in Isaiah 66: 22-23, “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD.”
This is the theme John himself picks up in his gospel when he applied the term “tabernacle” his Jesus’ incarnation. He wrote in John 1:14 where Scripture reads, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” It was Jesus Christ himself who restores God’s abiding presence to his people and he did so by reconciling them to his Father.
Paul explains this theme of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation….” Christ is new creation and he reconciles us to God. He made it so by his life, death, and resurrection. Christ brought us out from this creation by redeeming us from sin and misery and delivers us to new creation where God permanantly resides with his people.
In Christ, we are God’s temple here on earth (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The presence of God in creation. We are God’s living stones where Christ is the cornerstone. Peter exhorts, “…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5).” And who we are in Christ is the reality we live now in this world but more so the permanent state of affairs in the world to come. John records that in the new heaven and new earth, “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….” We are reconciliated but also united to God himself through Christ as new creation.
Behold, I am making all things new
Our personal, perfect, and perpetual communion with God is the first order of reality believers will experience in the world to come. This is the theme we will continue next week as we futher explore the next set of verses from Revelation 21.
I want to end our preaching by reflecting on the new things we as believers are bound to enjoy in the new heaven and new earth.
What are benefits we can enjoy being in the presence of God?
That while there is much discontinuity between the present evil and passing age with the age to come, and there is a qualitative difference between the first creation and the new creation, yet there is also a continuity in terms of reality and it centers on Christ as new creation. He is the pattern for all of us believers.
In Christ, we will too enjoy these benefits we receive because Christ is new creation and his recurrection become the pattern or template for everything we will receive in the new heaven and new earth. And we have to remember that all these we experience in part and only after death specifically in new creation we can truly and fully participate in it.
- Verse 1 – “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.”
- No more evil. The source of evil which is symbolized by the sea will finally be dealt with and conquered by Christ first by his death at the cross and consummated in his second coming. Now evil cannot further harm us for our eternal destiny is secured yet the devil can still persecute us and even get us matryed. But in new creation, evil is no longer present. We will not be tempted to fall into sin nor given to the possibility of it. We will live perfectly before God.
- 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.”
- No more sin and misery. We live in the holy city. The City of God or New Jersalem is the bride of Christ and this becomes the focus of the next passages. We will hear this preached next week. So holiness here on earth means not sinless perfection for we still battle remaining sin but we are holy in the eyes of God because of our union with Christ who is new creation. We are justified, being sanctified, and will be glorified. Soon we will possess inherent righteousness in our gloried bodies and permanently live on this state.
- Verse 4 – “He (The One who sits at the throne) 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.”
- No more suffering and pain. Yes for now our hearts may have been regenerated, our minds renewed, and wills restored but sin remains in our bodies. But in new creation, our bodies will be completely healed. Like Jesus’ own glorified bodily state, we too shall become like him in this respect.
- No more death. While we now live reconciled to God and this end our spiritual death, we will experience death not as a payment for sin for Christ for them om full but only as a passage way to eternal life. So in new creation, our perfected state will be permanent. We will live with God forever!
- Verses 6 to 7 – “…To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”
- No more broken communion with God. We will forever receive sustainance from him.
- No more alienation from God. We will be his sons and daughters forever.
- Verses 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.”
- No more hyprocricy. We will forever walk with God.
How vast the benefits divine which we in Christ possess! In the end we can glory God and enjoy him forever! For “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 the Omega, the beginning and the end.” The God who made all things new will permanently dwell with us his people! Rejoice Christian for this is your inheritance. God himself is our portion and joy! Through hardships, pain, sickness, troubles may seem to overwhelm us in this life we us encourage one another of this eternal vision of God in the new heaven and new earth.
ZCRC(Imus), Christ is new creation. His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification set a pattern for us not only in this life but also in the life to come. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.