Blessings of the New Jerusalem - Part 1

July 10, 2022 Speaker: Reid Strahan Series: Visions That Give Us Hope

Topic: Hope Passage: Revelation 21:9–26

God gave the revelation of the New Jerusalem, to John, just at the time intense persecution was rising up against the church.  The New Earth with it’s New City was the ultimate answer to the severe trials and losses Christians were about to face.  This vision of heaven is God’s medicine for suffering, pain and discouragement. It sows unending and unconquerable hope in our hearts. If a vivid picture of this New City is NOT part of your outlook on life, then you are depriving yourself of one of the main sources of abundant joy and hope that God wants you to have. 

CS Lewis said, “Scripture … habitually puts the joys of heaven into the scale against the sufferings of earth, and no solution to the problem of pain which does not do (that) can be called a Christian one.  Contemplating the joys of heaven is God’s solution for our present pain! The Joy of the New Jerusalem is a spiritual weapon against the devil, depression, and even death!

But I want to begin by setting this vision in God’s big picture for us. God told us his purpose in creation was to make people in his image, and these people were to have children and fill the garden and the whole earth. They were to tend the garden in Eden, to name and rule over the animals, then eventually manage the whole earth.  All this would take place with God’s unbroken blessing upon them and all creation.  

But Adam and Eve sinned against God, they were expelled from the garden, and the earth came under a curse. The ground produced thistles and thorns. Hard work and sweat was required to make things grow, pain became a part of childbirth, conflict became part of marriage, hatred became part of human relationships.  Death entered the world because of sin and death spread to all men because all sinned— Rom. 5:12  The Bible tells us THIS earth (and our experience on it) is broken!

Yet after being cast out of the garden, and experiencing the misery of a sin cursed world, some people began to call upon the name of the Lord. Some were made right with God by faith, by believing God. Hebrews 11 tells us about those men and women.  And THE key evidence of their faith, was that their hearts became deeply attached to ANOTHER world!   

Abraham “was looking forward to the City with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”  They acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on this earth.  “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.”

God somehow made known to them, he was building a new City for them, and he put a deep longing for this place in their hearts. This hope of a new world, energized them and motivated their obedience through deprivation, and even persecution and death.  

Centuries later God revealed the fullness of his plan to save us from our sin and degradation through Jesus Christ.  By trusting Christ, our sins are forgiven, the Spirit is sent into our hearts, and we have fellowship with God. All wonderful things we have now. But God’s ultimate plan in saving us was to bring us to a new world, an eternal home. Where God would show us his kindness for all the ages to come. Eph. 2:7

Titus 3:5,6 says he saved us, through the new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. SO THAT having been justified, we would have the hope of eternal life. Eternal life is the ultimate outcome, the ultimate prize, the goal the glorious ending of our salvation!  

Primarily eternal life is living forever with God, in resurrected bodies, in God’s new heaven and earth.  EL is NOT some ghost-like existence floating on the clouds, where we are not sure if we are real, or if anything around us is real!  Wayne Grudem said “Heaven is a place, not a state of mind.”

Jesus and the apostles constantly sought to tether our hearts to this other world. Paul said, “Their minds are on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven,.”  Peter said “The present heaven and earth will be destroyed by fire, but we are looking forward to a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells.

So we come to Revelation 21 where God revealed to John more details about our destination on this new earth and in this new City.  If you were going to Hawaii you would research what you would get to see and do there!  We should be interested in heaven!

Earlier in the chapter, John “saw a new heaven and a new earth.  And he saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.” Verse 3 “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will dwell with them.  They will be His people and God Himself will be with them as their God.”  So the important thing about the New City is that it is the dwelling place of God. God comes to live with us on earth!  And God dwelling with us, on the new earth, is the answer to everything! And that is not an overstatement!

All that is wrong with people and life and the world is the absence of God. So when heaven and earth are united, when God comes down to us to dwell with us, suddenly everything is made new and right and beautiful. He will wipe away every tear.  Death, sadness, pain, all gone!  Everything is as it should be, just as we always longed for it to be.  For example:

There will be no more sickness or handicaps! Is 35:5 “The eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. The lame will leap like a deer and the mute tongue will shout for joy.” God will restore us to perfect health in perfectly functioning bodies.  

The earth itself will be restored. The curse on the ground will be no more! Is 35:1 Verses 1 “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.  Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.”  “Waters will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”  Deserts will become gardens!  God is able to make gardens out of deserts!  The land of the new earth will produce incredibly beautiful plants and abundant crops. 

*Now in verse 9 an angel invites John to a more detailed tour of this new city.  “Come I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God”. 

This City is called the wife of the Lamb.  It is Christ’s City! And only the bride of Christ can enter!  Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will be there!  

This is a real city.  John sees brilliant light, beautiful walls, gates, foundations. An angel measures it using human measurements. He sees specific materials used for various parts of the city.  People are coming and going.  Treasures from all over the earth are brought into the city to honor the Lamb.  There is a river, lined with trees, bearing fruit. 

Randy Alcorn said, “Satan need not convince us that Heaven doesn’t exist.  He need only convince us that Heaven is a place of boring, unearthly existence.  If we believe that, we will be robbed of our joy and anticipation, we’ll set our minds on this life and not the next...”  

This morning: 7 blessings of Life in the New City: 

First: We will see and experience the glory of God there! John said,  I saw a City and “it was shining with the glory of God”.  The city is all lit up with God’s glory!  “It’s radiance was like a jasper, as clear as crystal”. It was like a shimmering massive diamond descending from heaven to earth. God is trying to tell us how glorious the glory of God is!  What is the most glorious thing you have seen? A sunset, a sunrise, a full moon shining over a lake, a full rainbow?  This city has glory a thousand times more! It has the Glory of God!

Isaiah 35:2 “They will see the glory of the Lord, (and) the splendor of our God.”  Habakkuk said, “The whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 2:14 There will be glory everywhere!  I believe the deepest longing of every true child of God is to see the glory of God! We sing “Your glory God is what our hearts long for!”  And it is!  Moses cried, “Please! Lord! Show me your glory!” You may not even know that is what you thirst for.  But it is! To see the glory of God is THE foremost blessing of the City, and it will captivate us forever. 

*Next: The City’s structures will constantly remind us of the wonders and goodness of God’s plan for us.  Verse 12 “The city had a great high wall with 12 gates, 3 gates on the east, 3 on the north, the south and on the west.”  And John saw 12 angels, presumably one at each gate.  As you go into the City an angel will be there, perhaps to greet you and bless you. Angels all around, will be a normal part of life in heaven. 

The 12 gates have the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. God chose Israel as his people through which the Savior would come. Israel will never be forgotten by God.  The names of the 12 tribes are on the city gates!

The City sits upon 12 foundation stones with the names of the 12 apostles.  Jesus’ 12 apostles and their teaching are of immense importance.  And look at the honor they are given!   Just think James and John mending their fishing nets by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus walks by and says “Come follow me”.  They left their nets and followed him. And these ordinary fishermen, end up with their names on the foundation stones of Heaven!   

Jesus said, If anyone serves me my Father will honor him!   The honor the Father has for us staggers our imagination. Ordinary people like you and I, will have our names written in the Lamb’s book of life!  You have a name!  And your name matters!  God knows your name. And if you belong to Christ he has written your name down. It’s in the Lamb’s book of life. It’s in the New City.  And I think you will see it there! This is a high honor!

Including the names of the 12 tribes with the 12 apostles shows our oneness with the Old Testament believers.  Jesus said, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”  Matt. 8:11 Jesus is talking about Gentiles from around the world. He means people like us from all over the world will be together, and eat together with Abraham and Sarah, David and Joseph! 

*Verses 15-17 reveal the size of the City. This is a very big city!  God makes big things because he is big God!  The City will accommodate people from every nation, tribe and language from all the ages who are redeemed by Christ!  The angel wants John to know just how big it actually is!  So he measures it for him, using a human standard of measurement. It’s base is a square 1400 miles by 1400 miles. But it’s height is the same.  So John sees a massive glorious shimmering cube.  

The moon is about 2100 miles in diameter.  JVM points out that a cube the size of the NJ would fit just inside the sphere of the moon.  If you picture a full moon descending to earth, getting bigger and bigger as it got closer (only as a cube) that would be something like what John saw! 

Next: We will see the stunning beauty of God’s handiwork in the City. Verse 18,19 “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.” Precious stones, streets of gold, pure as glass, gates of pearl - without getting lost in what each stone or precious metal looked like, the overall impression is that it that there are gems of every color and that the city is magnificent and opulent beyond description.  

God is a rich God and he spares nothing to make a City of great beauty for us!  I like beauty.  I like to be in beautiful places and see beautiful things. And we are going to enjoy that forever in heaven.  It is just going to be pure stunning beauty forever and ever!

One of the greatest things in this life is to see the beauty of God’s creation.  If there is such glory in our fallen world, what will the new earth and new city look like!  

Next: Our fellowship with God will be direct, perfect, and unbroken in the City. Verse 22 “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”  The OT temple was God’s dwelling place among his people Israel. God was in heaven but he manifested in the temple. But there is no need for any special building for God in this City, because God himself and the Lamb are fully present. We will be right up close to God. His presence will fill the City and the entire new earth and heavens.  

Next: We will live constantly in the light of God’s glory!  Revelation emphasized that his glory is experienced by light or brilliance.  His light will be upon us as a constant reminder that his glory is upon us and with us.  Wherever you walk there is going to be this light upon you!  

Verse 23 “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”  Every street and home and room will be illuminated by the glory of God!  Isaiah 60:19 No longer will the sun be your light by day nor the brightness of the moon shine on your night for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your splendor….and the days of your sorrow will cease”. God’s glory will directly light up the new earth. 

Verse 24 “By its light will the nations walk”  All places, all people, all nations on the new earth have this light from God’s glory.

Next: The City is a place of activity, all centered on honoring and glorifying God. Verse 24 goes on “and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.”   

You might say, do you really think there will be people filling the new earth, with kingdoms or nations and cities.  Well I do.  In one of Jesus’ parables the master replied, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, “I will put you in charge of 10 cities”. Rev. 2:26 "To him who overcomes I will give authority over the nations.”  Much in scripture implies that there will be organization, and actual cities and nations in the new earth. They will be ruled over by the saints of God! 

And that is what John sees here -people, nations and kings bringing their best products and produce into the city.

Finally: We will experience life without sin and without evil people in the New City.  Verse 27 “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.”  Those not cleansed by the blood of Jesus, those who do detestable things, those who deny God’s truth and instead choose to live by lies, will NOT be in this City!  We often talk about the cost of discipleship.  What about the cost of non-discipleship!  The cost of non-discipleship is exclusion from the City of God, forever.  

This will be a City without sexual immorality, without greed or pride, without jealousy, hatred, or anger,  and without grumbling, and bad attitudes.  Everybody is praising the Lord!  Everyone loves God.  Everyone loves each other! Everyone is rejoicing!  

Is. 35:8 “And there will be a highway called the Way of Holiness. – It will be only for those who walk in that Way.  The unclean will not travel on it; Wicked fools will not go about on it.  No lion will be there, and no vicious beast will go upon it. Such will not be found there but only the redeemed will walk upon it.”   “So the redeemed of the Lord will enter Zion (on this highway of holiness) with singing, everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

Here is the big picture truth from this. Where God is, things get healed. Things get well. People are cured. When God comes down to dwell with us in the New City on the new earth, that is the cure to everything!  When God shows up everything is beautiful, and glorious, no sadness, no night, no unholiness, all creation is restored, people are healed, life returns to a state as it was in the beginning in the Garden, only far better even than that.  God said, “Behold I make all things new!” There is just no other way to describe it!  Everything is fantastically new!

This hope of heaven is to affect your life today. It to be a very important spiritual weapon for you today! We are to draw joy from the New Earth and New City and use that hope to fight against the devil, depression, and every form of evil!  And I believe it is primarily your joy and hope in the New City that makes you an overcomer! I don’t think you can be an overcomer in this world without having a very vivid hope in this New City that God has for us.

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